Friday, September 18, 2009

I liked these Quick Sprout suggestions on attending conferences

Previously I talked about a Quick Sprout list of suggestions, as well as some diverging opinions about said suggestions. Well, I'm now subscribed to Quick Sprout, and Neil Patel recently printed some new suggestions - Beginner's Guide to Attending Conferences. Having attended some conferences over the years, I read them...and like them.

One thing that Patel didn't mention - set goals for the conference. What do you want to get out of it? You'll see that as you go through the items that Patel DID suggest, setting goals beforehand will be of great benefit.

Patel's first suggestion is to have business cards. There are various schools of thought on this, but here's how Patel sums it up:

If you don’t make it easy for people to contact you, no one will.

And if you don't have any business cards, the Ffundercats offer cards online for your purchasing pleasure.

Patel's second point is that you need to have an elevator pitch. Actually, Patel had three different elevator pitches for the TechCrunch 50 conference that he just attended. Similarly, when I arrive in San Francisco for Oracle OpenWorld 2009, I will have several elevator pitches, depending upon the situation.

Patel's next two points may seem contradictory, but they really aren't. "Knowledge is power" and "Don’t be a networking whore" are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Basically, before you attend the conference - and even before you develop your elevator pitch(es) - you need to determine what your goals are at the conference. That not only shapes your elevator pitch, but also shapes the sessions that you attend, and the people that you meet.

I'll give you a personal example. Two years ago, at Oracle OpenWorld 2007, I attended sessions and networked with people regarding Oracle's Business Intelligence products. We subsequently determined that Oracle's BI product (or, for that matter, any BI product) did not meet the specific needs that we were exploring, so while I'll certainly say hello to any of the Oracle BI people that I met, I'm not filling up my Schedule Builder with Oracle BI sessions.

Patel's fifth point, "Don't eat lunch with your friends," ties in to the other points above. Unless your main goal at a conference is to get to know your friends better, seek out new people. You can see your friends, or contact them online, at any time - you don't need to pay $3,000 for the privilege of meeting them. Now, of course, I will gather with my friends in the early evening, but that's actually one of my conference goals.

Point six - "Walk the floor." Oracle OpenWorld will have exhibition halls in Moscone West and Moscone South, and I wouldn't be surprised if an exhibit pops up somewhere else after Larry Ellison's keynote. There are definitely some exhibitors that I need to visit, both for business and for personal reasons, and Schedule Builder does let you place such visits in your schedule (although I guess improvements could be made, but I give it an A for effort).

In my case, points seven and eight ARE mutually exclusive - "Take someone out to dinner" and "Attend the after parties." With a month to go before Oracle OpenWorld begins, my evenings are already pretty much booked.

Which brings up to point nine (does Neil ever sleep?) - "Don't forget to follow up." Yes, yes, and yes.

See all of Neil's points here.
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