Time to brew some conference attendee strategies! Welcome to the first official episode of Event Brew, the best event industry podcast out there. And just in case you’ve been sleeping under a rock, this is the podcast that’s going to change your life. Every week, our extraordinary hosts get together to discuss the hottest topics in the industry. So, have you been curious to know what goes on behind closed doors within the professionals of the event world? This is your chance to get the best scoop!
On this week’s episode, Will Curran, Nick Borelli, Dustin Westling, and Thuy Diep get together to talk about conference attendee strategies. As members of the event industry, we’re more than used to attend conferences directed at us. But what’s the mindset going in? How do you perceive? And what’s the best way to get the most out of it? All of this and more, just one click away. So choose your drink, and let’s get brewing!
When it comes to the types of people that attend conferences, Will believes there are two types. “There’s, “I’m going to go to every education session, and like soak up all the knowledge,” and then there are the people who are like, “I’m going to go to every social event and spend most of the time just in the hallway talking to people or be in the lobby bar, hanging out with people”, he explains.
What Category Are We On?
Thuy feels like she’s more of the learning type. “I usually, in the past, am really big into education, I’m a learner for life”, she says. “And I will sit there with the schedule and put it all in my agenda with the rooms and I’m always sitting in the front middle”. Dustin, however, feels like that’s quite a draining experience. “I am good for a day of hitting half of my education goals, and then usually by day two I don’t show up to anything”, he explains. “It’s a bit exhausting and a bit of a grind. I have a big team that I send to a lot of conferences. Will’s two kinds of conference personas, I find that those are quite accurate. And either you’re there for your business, you’re there to learn, or you’re there to network at social events”.
Will agrees with Dustin. “I get really burnt out with a ton of education, I think my brain can’t handle a lot of it. I’m a lifelong learner, I always want to learn. A lot of times I’m going to these conferences and unless there are some specific ones, like newer ones sometimes, I feel like a lot of times sometimes the content doesn’t go advanced enough for me”.
Dustin goes further and adds that “I always tell my team to go to the things that really resonate with them. Don’t stay in sessions that are missing the mark or that are not inspiring them. And hang out at the conference as much as you can, stay in the hallways, make an effort to meet new people. And in our part of the industry, I definitely think the best connections are made in the lobby bar after all the education is done and gone”.
The Age Of Everything
We live in a time where al knowledge rests at the tip of our fingertips. This makes it harder for Nick to apply the same strategies in conferences that he did a few years ago. “It really makes it difficult for me to then say, I’m going to take that same methodology and apply it 15 years later. Especially when I know the people now, like who create the best content, I can get it at any time, I can call them at any time because I have access. My deficit of knowledge in certain areas, to do what I do for the events industry is not as deep as it used to be”.
Conference Attendee Strategies – Networking
Networking can get quite complex in this environment, particularly when it comes down to supplier partners. Thuy, for example, says that “I don’t want to say they’re fake nice, but they want to get to know me from a business end, not on a personal end. And I feel like networking needs to really…that relationship develops because of learning about someone personally and having that human connection”.
And Dustin definitely agrees: “I find that being sold to is really exhausting and it makes me avoid areas where you know you’re going to get targeted for that. I keep my head down when I walk through the trade show. Or I often put my badge in my back pocket and I want to explore and just be on my own a little bit. I don’t like being overly inundated”. Plus, “I don’t carry business cards. I have them somewhere in a box in this office. Generally, I don’t take them with me, I prefer to connect with people on a much more meaningful level. And I make a point to connect with them digitally before I walk away”.
Avoiding The Common Annoyances
When it comes to avoiding being bothered, Dustin lays it down like it is. “I’m really honest with people. If I’m not in the head space for it I just tell them that and I ask for them to connect in a different way. And I do try really hard to follow up with people that want to connect or put them on to the right person on my team”.
Thuy is the opposite. “I’m like very nice. But I feel like there’s an unwritten rule of how much time if it is that first connection. If it goes over like three to five minutes, if it’s not an actual deep dive into conversations and things like that, just like what you do. At that point will do anything. I’ll do an introduction and like legit leave”, she says.
Joy Of Missing Out
Nick raises the interesting topic of JOMO. As he puts it, “I think that people whose time is more valuable just in general, probably experience that more than they experience the fear of missing out. Like anyone of us likely could go to any event for free any given day just because we’re in the events industry, we have opportunities. At least when it comes to experiences that a lot of people don’t like the levels of which we get to experience things sometimes are a lot heightened. So it’s either very difficult to impress us or we’re just not as impressed with that stuff as we used to be”, he explains.
“Honestly, I probably would attend more events co-working spaces existed”, adds Will. “Because sometimes I just need to have a one-hour meeting and sit down with someone. And that’s going to be the most profound thing that happens in that conference. And the rest of the time I want to remotely co-work and I want to remotely co-work with other people. I think that’d be super duper cool to do. Just make sure it’s fast WiFi”.
“There’s just lots and lots of opportunities to take advantage of with pre-work”, says Nick. Thuy, for example, has a pretty neat trick. “When you’re at any event or you want to post, I actually pre-write my post. And then all I need to do is take a photo and then I just copy-paste and just hit send. So then I can really enjoy the moment, instead of sitting in the corner and saying what it is, what I’m doing”. Dustin does something similar: “I do a little bit of research before I go in. And I keep my notes on my phone with the social media handle of the speaker and the correct spelling of their name so I don’t make any stupid mistakes. So that I’m not buried in my content creation and I can stay plugged in as much as I can”.
Sharing Is Caring, But Not Too Much
Living in the moment is increasingly more important. Nick has found himself straying away from social media. And Thuy, for example, “will ask presenters for their slideshow. I’ll give them my business card and I feel like that’s more common. Just so, I see people rapidly taking notes. I honestly will just sit and listen and afterward just ask them for their slideshow”.
Conference Attendee Strategies – Extra Tips
“I used to very much be the guy like onstage the next morning and be like, “Hey, if you guys don’t have raccoon eyes as I do, then you’re wasting your money”, says Nick. “You need to stay up like every hour of this show and absolutely get as much out of it. I just think that I still believe that, I also just don’t have the energy I used to. To be able to like really kind of do that stuff unless the right set of circumstances are in place, then I’m back to where I used to be. And some of the best memories I have, even with people on this call are like super late at night, out, and it can be really, really great”.
The Drinking Factor
If you’re thinking of reaching for the bar, Thuy has some words for you. “I know as an industry we always talk about an open bar and drinking, being drunk and socializing at the bar. But I actually don’t really drink and I think that’s why I’m able to stay out really late and I wake up in the morning. Like I work out at the gym or I’ll go for a run in the morning and people are always like, “How do you do it?”.
“People are drinking a lot less, they are a lot more health-conscious, a lot more socially conscious”, adds Dustin. “And I think that is a good thing. And I think kind of on the topic of industry conferences, you got to keep yourself together. There’s the opinion that people have of you is being formed not only at the conference but after the conference as well”.
Nick also weighs in on the topic: “I’m not saying that there’s like a right and wrong and you’re doing wrong by drinking more. I’m just saying that if you feel like that’s not the path, but you also want to do the social thing in order to network…Because I think that’s where a lot of it comes from. And then all of a sudden it’s like peer pressure and then all of a sudden everyone’s doing the same thing, and it’s just this wave”.
Thuy throws some advice for the hair-conscious people out there. “I actually get my hair professionally styled day one or day zero of the conference and I’ll wear it different every single day”, she says. I think that helps a lot. And I just throw in some dry shampoo if I need to. So that helps me with that extra because I feel like you boys don’t understand. Girls, we’re expected to put makeup on and to be on point with our outfits and things like that. Wearing heels, make sure they’re really comfy”.
For the newer folk in the industry, Dustin has something for you. “If you’re looking to build your network and you are looking to put some energy towards it, know to come prepared, bring energy, show up, show up to everything, put yourself out there”, he advises. “And I know that the four of us love meeting new people that are interesting, that have something interesting to share. So, don’t shy away and don’t be a wallflower and put yourself out there and you’ll be amazed at the incredible people you can meet”.
We leave you with this wonderful thought on conference attendee strategies. Don’t forget to tune in next week for some more brewing! This is the place where you get to listen to the event professionals talk…without a filter. Event Brew out!