8 ways to get more out of your conference

The tickets are booked and the conference passes are paid for. Congratulations, you are attending the next big affiliate conference. What to expect? Lots of speeches and talks from industry professionals, meeting dozens of new people and some good parties too!

With the number of shows hosted in affiliate marketing, the odds are pretty high that you’ve already attended one or two and even have a short list of tips and tricks of your own to make the most out of your conference experience. However, if that is not the case or if you are just interested in switching up your conference tactics we’ve got some tips for you as well.

Agenda(and the hidden agenda)

Closer to the show the official agenda will be launched. This usually includes conference events, keynote speakers and the opening of the market. The official agenda is great for seeing the overall public plan and theme of the conference and is absolutely worth reviewing. However, what you should really be focusing on is the more private and exclusive events surrounding the conference. Privately hosted parties, drinks and meet-ups are the best. Ask your AM’s and people you meet at the show about their afterhours plans. Network; find the right parties where you can get introduced to the right people.

Register Early

Everyone “knows” this and still there always seems to be way too big of a line to pick up badges the day of the conference. You don’t want to be the person stuck in line while everyone else is already having their coffee and business talks at the conference. Often there is an option to register the day before and it’s totally worth the effort of going there to get it over with. Being early out on the show floor is definitely a better use of your time then standing is a long line. Also, who likes long lines?!

Keep it organised

While at the conference a massive amount of information will be dumped at you. There will be swarms of coming your way and not all of it will be valuable. During short chats, long meetings, happy hours and even club sessions you will gather names, notes and business cards. In this whirlwind of information it’s often difficult to link that contact or business card with the conversation you had the night before. This can lead to missed opportunities; especially if is hinges on a priority or maybe time sensitive.

The good news is with some basic organization habits, you can optimize your networking efforts and keep track of your contacts. Just capture a few details in the first few moments, just small quick notes, no need to write a book. This will be incredibly useful later when you circle back to your notes once you are home. Write key points on the back of people’s business cards or capture cards in dedicated apps. Even just using your phone to photograph business cards, assures you won’t lose it and you won’t need to always have a bulging pocket full of cards. Photographs also have date and times stamps, so it will help give you some context of what was happing at that time when you revisit it later. During happy hour, quickly write down a couple of notes in your phone after each conversation – anything that will trigger your mind the next day or next week to remember if the contact is worth following up on. An excellent free tool for this is Google Keep. Think of it as smart digital post-it notes that let you attach photos and other media. It also has category tagging (called “labels”), that can greatly improve your organization. You might decide that some of the contacts you have are not really something that’s valuable to you at the moment, but just might be in six months (you never know). Having that small amount of detail and context is will wind up being a great help.

Plan wisely

No matter how much of an early bird you are – morning meetings at the show are not the best idea. Remember this is an industry where so much business and relationship building is done while going out, having nice dinners and a few (or more than a few) alcoholic beverages. As a result, try to keep in mind that mornings might not be the best time for many people.

However, if you skip morning meetings, you better make the most out of the rest of the day. Lunch breaks on the other hand are a great time of the day to set up a meeting. Make sure to take advantage this, because if you don’t someone else will.

Have an open mind

Everyone is at the show with the same mindset. People are there to learn, get inspired and have a good time. Make use of that opportunity and talk to others about your challenges; an alternative perspective might help you build out your current company in ways you’ve never considered.

Prepare

When showing up to the conference, be fully prepared and on a mission to get insights that will help your company. Knowing what you want will keep yourself accountable for getting the most out of the event.

Have a prepared set of questions, clearly constructed and aimed at your goals. Some examples of these questions may include:  

  • “I’ve had a hard time with (Scaling, picking offers, employees, you name a challenge), do you or anyone you know have any experience with overcoming that?”
  • “This year I’ve tried this vertical (or something that did or didn’t work) and saw these results (Fill in), do you have any recommendations for making it better next time?”
  • “What’s something you’ve heard people testing recently that worked really well for their business? Why do you think it worked? Can you introduce me to these people?”

Meet the exhibitors 

Every show you will see new exhibitors pop up. New companies, rebranding, merged companies…etc. It’s sometimes a daunting task to keep up and all of these additions and changes. The market is constantly changing, but most companies are at the conference because the audience is a good match, in some way, for their company.

Unfortunately this still doesn’t mean they are always a good match to your company. Sometimes it’s ok to tell people you are not interested in their service or that they are not a good match for what you need now. However, always take the card and jot down a few notes about the meeting (keep organized). You never know what your situation will be in a couple of months and that resource might be the perfect fit a bit further down the road.

Work hard play hard

Alcohol isn’t just a social lubricator, it’s also useful business lubricator as well. Rooftop drinks, club tables and parties are where the best connections are sometimes made. Instead of spending the night in your hotel room, go out and get involved. That being said, spending a day hung-over at the conference hall is not a fun or very effective way to spend your day either, so keep that in mind. Even if you are not a drinker, being out and about and ‘seen’ at these events can lead to valuable contacts and opportunities, so get out there!