In our previous post, we discussed the reasons why now is a great time to begin planning your professional event calendar for 2016, especially if you have never attended a professional or business event such as a conference or trade show before. Professional events provide incredible experiences for entrepreneurs, freelancers, and other managers and professionals to expand their knowledge and interact with industry leaders, preview the newest and most exciting products and services within their industry, and professionally network with others who could become valuable partners, suppliers, or even customers.

Every Event Is Different

While there are a number of different professional event types, with vastly different formats, agendas, and goals, there are a few tips and insider strategies that can be applied to almost every event type. Whether you’re attending a conference to expand your knowledge and insights into a particular industry and question an industry leader, or attending a trade show to get a fresh look at brand new products and services being released by other companies both big and small, each event requires its own strategy. By utilizing these strategies, you can maximize the effectiveness of your participation in the event and the time and resources you will spend to attend.

Plan Your Trip With Networking And Event Participation In Mind

When you’re initially planning to attend a professional event and working out the logistics of your trip, it may be useful to disregard most of the strategies and services you normally use to save money on expenses such as accommodations, dining, and other smaller expenses. For most of your other professional and personal trips, saving the most money possible on accommodations and dining is a wise and rational way to stretch your travel budget, but when attending a professional event, it can also hamper your ability to make the most out of the opportunities you have to network and attend events. For instance, a neighboring hotel or short-term rental property might present a better deal than the hotel hosting the event, but lodging away from other attendees can result in missed opportunities to network. Plus, travelling to and from the facility hosting the event can be both an added expense and may cause you to miss out on early presentations. Furthermore, while you may be tempted to try a trendy restaurant a half-mile away, eating and drinking at the nearest restaurant to the event can provide even more opportunities to mingle and network with other participants.

Pre-Network As Much As Possible Before The Event

If you don’t regularly attend professional events in your industry, or if you haven’t attended events at all in the past, you may feel very lost or even intimidated by the fact that you may not know anyone before travelling to a different city and participating in an event, especially by yourself. The best way to avoid feeling like the “new kid at school” is to make an effort to pre-network before the event. The easiest way to do this is to find and participate in any online communities or discussions that spring up online around the event in question. These communities or discussions can occur on the event organizer’s website, on a professional networking service such as LinkedIn, or on a general social network such as Facebook. By becoming a valued and helpful member of these online groups and communities before the event occurs, you can meet other participants and learn insider information about the event such as the best bar or restaurant to mingle afterwards. Your attendance in these discussions can even count towards earning a professional certification or accreditation.