As you probably know by now, we are huge fans of putting time and effort into building your online community (we built a whole course about it). It’s the key to success as an online business owner, and it’s one way to make this world a whole lot smaller.
Yet investing in that online community doesn’t have to mean giving up all in-person interaction, even if it requires putting real pants on. (Which we highly advise.)
Attending in-person conferences can introduce you to a plethora of new people, even giving you face time with some of your online biz crushes. It can be the catalyst for visiting a new place. It can be the interaction you need to reinvigorate your business so that when you do go back to your yoga pants in bed (not judging!), you’re ready to jam.
Buying the ticket is the first step. Showing up is the second. In between, during, and after, there are several other ways you can get all of the above (and more) from your next business conference:
1. Study up on the agenda
You want to know what you’re getting yourself into. If the conference includes several speakers/panels at one time, build an action plan for which sessions you’re going to attend. Include backups if one doesn’t pan out -- and don’t be afraid to leave if it isn’t. Once you’ve determined what you’ll be attending and the topics you’ll be hearing about, start taking notes. What’s the speaker known for? What questions do you have about the topic? Finally, if you're a person who needs alone time to remain sane (like us), be sure to schedule some in where you can, so that you're not pulled from session to session with no downtime.
Going in prepared is one way to be able to fully enjoy the moment.
2. Connect on social media beforehand
Once you have your plan of what you’ll be attending, start connecting with the speakers and conference organizers online. Twitter is a great place to start a conversation, and it’s also a great way to get on the radar of speakers whom you might like to actually meet while at the conference.
Likewise, connect with other conference attendees before arrival. It’s uncommon these days for a big event to not have a dedicated hashtag that you can use to connect with other conference-goers before, during, and after the conference -- don’t wait to start.
Tip: Use the hashtag as you’re posting about the conference across platforms -- it’s a great way to collect your own notes when you want to recap it later.
3. Find smaller, breakout events
If you’re attending a huge event, like the World Domination Summit, it’s easy to feel lost in the crowd. Keep an eye out for smaller breakout events throughout the conference -- for example, Kit Whelan hosted several events specifically for female digital nomads during the 2015 WDS -- a perfect way to make relevant connections in a more comfortable, less intimidating setting.
Tip: If you can’t find a breakout event, don’t be afraid to start your own -- others will be glad you did. Find a local restaurant and set up a breakfast before daily sessions start, or choose a coffee shop and set up a meet up during a break. You can make it a simple meet-and-greet, or give it a topic.
4. Set up systems for while you’re away
Despite being at the conference to work on some aspect of your business, half of being able to enjoy the event is being able to completely unplug from the day-to-day. Chances are high that you’ll have a jam-packed schedule during the conference and will want to use most of your free time to catch up on sleep or connect with people you’ve met, not slough through emails or worry about deadlines.
This is all about being proactive. Before you leave, do the following:
- Work ahead: It might only be a two-day long conference, but with travel time and recovery, you might be “out of commission” for a full week or more. Get ahead on projects or monthly retainers, where possible.
- Schedule out: If you’re a content producer who blogs, podcasts, vlogs, or posts regularly to certain social channels, prepare content for the days you’re going to be away. (But leave room in case that perfect Insta photo pops up while you’re at the conference.)
- Set up an email auto-responder: Tell people you’re away, as well as what they can expect upon your return. (Bonus points for including a few good reads from your blog, or another resource, in the meantime.)
- Hire out-of-office help: You might not work with a VA on a regular basis, but maybe this is the time to enlist some help. OWS member Julienne offers specific vacation coverage packages so that you can leave, stress-free, knowing that your shop/email/social channels will continue running without you.
(Fun fact: Setting up systems like this is something we riff on waaaay more in The Solopreneur Sanity Handbook.)
Identify the things stressing you out most about leaving, and set up systems based on those priorities. Having them off your mind will allow you to fully enjoy each moment you’re away -- even if that’s an extra few winks of sleep.
5. Prepare all the right supplies
Packing can be our least favorite part of any travel, but coming prepared to the conference with all the right supplies that allow you to be your best self can be key to having the most rewarding experience.
When it comes to taking notes, for example, some conferences will provide you notebooks, folders, or print-outs that you can mark up to your heart’s content. But, a.) that’s not guaranteed, and b.) maybe that’s not quite how you want to preserve your notes. (#TypeA person speaking.)
Know ahead of time how you want to take notes so you can bring a fresh notebook and juiced up pen, come prepared with your laptop + charger, or make sure you have enough storage in Evernote. There’s nothing worse than a session starting and having to scramble for a pen or haphazardly jotting notes in a random place that you won’t be able to find later. (Stationery lovers: This is your chance to buy that new notebook, guilt-free.)
On the personal side, bring anything else you might need for a comfortable experience -- could be anything from an eye mask/ear plugs if you're sharing a room, to snack bars and a water bottle that help you avoid the inevitable hangriness. (Speaking from experience, here.)
Proactively prepare now. You’ll be happy you did, later.
6. Bring business cards -- and collect others’
You will meet at least a handful of new people. Other people will also be meeting a handful of new people. Don’t rely on your brain -- or others’ -- to remember every single person you spoke to. Come prepared with business cards (we heart Moo*) that you can offer the people you meet, and don’t be afraid to ask for theirs. Make use of them by adding notes to them, if possible, about what you talked about, or ideas for follow up.
Even if you interact online 95% of the time, the days of business cards are not over, and in-person events are the perfect setting to show yours off.
7. Schedule time after
It can be all too easy to fall back into a normal pattern the day you get back from a conference -- immediately rejoining the rat race to process emails, dive back into work, and get as much done as possible, vowing to revisit your notes from the conference “later.”
Don’t let that happen to you. One fun trick we love to use is this: Tell people you’re arriving back at least one day after you really are. That way, you can leave that autoresponder up and enjoy a bit of solitude as you process the days you just spent investing in your business. During that time, build an action plan for how you’ll follow up with people and how you’ll make moves on the ideas you had while away -- and then get started.
What will your next business conference be?
There’s nothing quite like taking time to step out of your day-to-day and really invest in your business -- but when you do, it’s important that you be present and make the most of it. Taking the steps above can help you enjoy more meaningful conversations, insightful sessions, and a reinvigorated drive to run your business.
P.S. Looking for a relevant conference to attend? Check out the One Woman Shop calendar!
*Note: We may receive a commission when you make a purchase via one or more links in this article. As always, we only promote products we love, and think you will, too!