Many of us know the world of meeting planning inside and out, but lots of experienced event planners don’t know much about, um, how to attend a meeting. Crazy thought, I know, but I’m constantly surprised when I hear planners say, “Why didn’t they tell us about this activity before the conference?” or “How was I supposed to know to bring that?”
In truth, if the planner has done his/her job in the course of planning said event, lots of useful information goes out beforehand. It’s simply a matter of reading and paying attention to all that pre-conference material. You know, just like you beg all your own attendees to do?
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So, maybe it’s time to review a few simple steps to getting the most out of your attendance as well as the time and money you invested in that upcoming function:
1) Sign up on time and meet your commitments
Basic information, but isn’t this a meeting and event planner’s continual quest — to get RSVPs and room pickups, not to mention cancellations, in a timely fashion? We thought so, now spread good karma and be considerate for the planner whose event you’re attending.
2) Do your session research
Be ready with questions and topics of conversation as requested. Speakers and presentations are normally outlined well in advance, so do yourself a favor and carefully think through what choices make sense for you. Then bring your “A” game by preparing specific questions for those speakers. Audience engagement is the big ticket right now, and it requires active participation. Don’t become one of those attendees who annoys you at your own meetings by slipping into the back of the session and ignoring the speaker’s plea for interaction.
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3) Make good choices
I know this sounds like advice from your mother, but it definitely applies to conference attendance. If you don’t want your boss to see you drinking, don’t hang out at the lobby bar. Overeating is easy when buffets are plentiful. Parties and invitations can be endless. Travel is exhausting, but it’s not an invitation to revisit your college days and partying ways. Do what Mom said, and make good choices. And don’t forget to bring your vitamins.
4) Carefully consider your personal message
This applies to what you choose to wear (or not), how much time you spend talking and sitting with the same circle of comfortable friends, where and how you hand out business cards, and how many times you’re seen with your nose buried in your PDA. Like it or not, life is full of opportunities to make only one first impression, and if your attendance at this function is for business, you might want to consider that you’re representing your company as well as your own personal brand at all times.
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5) Prepare as you pack
Business cards, adapters, jump drives and updated resumes are just a few of the things that belong in a standard business travel kit.
Finally, do this. Decide beforehand what your goals in attending this event are, whether it’s learning or networking or specifically meeting that one person you know will be there to mentor you. Think about how you can best achieve that goal and, with a little planning, you might just be proud of yourself when it’s over.