Monday, 5 August 2013

Get the Most out of a PWAC Conference

10 Ways to Get the Most out of a Conference (on the heels of attending MagNet 2013)

  1. Bring your business cards, give them out and take other people’s. Forgot yours at home? Get creative.  Elizabeth Johnston of Montreal went down the street, bought a bag of colourful, foam letters (the kind you would use to do an art project) and wrote her email address and website on them. When she ran into people, she opened her little mesh bag and asked them to pick their favourite letter. Mine is an orange “A.”
  1. Be prepared for “manageable networking.” Very few of us can be “on” 24/7. Have a few brief conversations then slink up to your room, if you need to, before coming back down for the next stretch of chatting.
  1. Take some time at the marketplace to talk with industry insiders (there are often fun freebies like pens and pads of paper for the taking).
  1. Have a sense of humour. As one of my sources recently said: Three things will tick (I am paraphrasing) you off every day. How are you going to handle that?
  1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions at the registration area. Even after registration is long over, it is an excellent resource.
  1. Follow-up afterwards. A quick thank you e-note to a presenter or request for a colleague to connect with you on LinkedIn demonstrates he or she has made an impression on you. And who doesn’t want to know that?
  1. Select five people you want to meet before the conference is over and make an effort to find them. It won’t always be easy, especially if the conference is large. For example, I never managed to locate Max Fawcett from Alberta Venture or Jennifer Walker from Best Health, both of whom I work with but have never met. But I met Laurie Jennings from Chatelaine.
  1. Be prepared for surprises. I literally ran into Trudi Down from Hamilton at the pre-dinner cocktail party who turned out to be a lovely connection. And Noreen Shanahan, who writes obituaries for the Globe and Mail. Really? Very cool.
  1. Step outside the hotel. Go shopping, grab a coffee and stretch your legs. Consider taking part in the additional activities typically organized by the host city. But don’t feel obliged. Pick and choose the events which appeal to you. This conference is a precious opportunity. You want it to work for your needs.
  1. Nobody is perfect, nor is any conference. Be prepared to give balanced feedback to the organizers. There is always room for improvement.