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Yesterday, we talked about what makes a conference valuable. If you missed that article, please go check it out first, since today will build on that framework. Let’s talk about how to squeeze more value out of conferences at a personal level. Unsurprisingly, the same 4 things that make a conference valuable in general are 4 areas you need to pay attention to.

Content

One of the most important tips I can offer about content at a conference is to not take notes on what’s on screen. With few exceptions, the basic presentation materials are usually given to attendees in some form at events. What you should take notes on? Take notes on the thoughts that occur to you while you’re listening to the content. Take notes on the different ideas that pop into your mind, things you want to try, things you have questions about in your own programs.

Conversation

When it comes to conferences, you’re paying a lot of money to be with like-minded people and mentors. Chatting idly about the weather, sports, or politics is a poor use of your time and doesn’t advance you or your business. Make sure that you have a list of 2-3 burning questions that you absolutely are committed to getting answers to, answers that will advance you and solve your problems. Then ask everyone you think can help you with the answers about your burning questions.

If you’re not confident that you can get the answers to your burning questions at an event, then it’s worth reconsidering whether you should attend the event.

Community

There are going to be people at every conference that you will want to meet for the purposes of advancing your business. Make sure you know who these people are and you commit to meeting 1 or 2 of them. Look at the registration pages or event hashtags on Twitter to see who’s going, then make a point of reaching out to them to ask if they’d be willing to meet up for coffee or lunch at the event.

Make sure you’re also focused on the right people at the event. I was at an event recently where someone made the crass remark that they enjoyed marketing events because there were attractive members of the opposite gender with blonde hair present. I politely suggested that the people this person was looking to meet for the purposes of advancing business tended to have grey hair, and that they might want to alter their focus accordingly.

Context

Part of the special essence of events is the ability to get you out of your routine. To the greatest extent possible, then, use that specialness as much as possible. Set appropriate expectations in your out of office message that you won’t be checking email or taking calls during the event, and be bold enough to set your devices to airplane mode so that you can’t be distracted. Be at the event 100% when it’s justified.

Conclusion

Use these tips in each of the four areas of value that a conference brings so that you can get as much personal value out of an event possible. You’ll get your time and money’s worth, advance your business, and walk away having different, more valuable experiences at conferences.


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