Here are my tough love conference tips! I’ve spent years attending blogging, writing, creativity, and business conferences. I love them! This week, for the fourth year, I’m heading to Miami, Florida for the Hispanicize event. It’s like a Latino version of SXSW, more concentrated. Every year I go with stars in my eyes, eager to learn, meet new connections – and I never come home empty handed.
This year, things are a little different and it happened by accident.
I went to get my hair blowed out in order to endure the Miami humidity. This is a LONG process, almost two-hours. My routine is to read articles and surf the web on my iPhone. But this time, I left it at home by accident. I had that separation anxiety for a few minutes, then just forgot about it, life goes on! The cool thing is that sitting there in the chair with nothing to distract me forced me to deep think about what I want to do, where I want to go and what I want out of the conference. Instead of just going in, I’m going to be super strategic to make every moment count!
These are my tough love tips to help you focus when attending conferences. These are things I thought about and it really helped me. I call them tough love because I’m sharing some of the not-so-happy things too! Game Face is ON!
1. Know exactly what you want from the conference. Look at the agenda, the sponsors, and the speakers and see if there is anything new you can learn. Don’t just attend because your friends are going or because it looks cool to say you are going. Think about other, more useful ways you can use that time and money. Only go if that conference has something of value to help you be a better person, thought leader, or businessperson.
2. Choosing sessions: If you are the smartest one in the room, you are in the wrong room. This is a quote by my friend, Jeannette Kaplun. In other words, choose to participate in activities that will push you to grow. Only each of us knows exactly what we need, so make your list of weaknesses and match them up to the session and find a fit. If you are at a conference and roll your eyes at one of the sessions because it sounds dreary, intimidating or not fun – you need to go to that session so you can LEARN.
3. Making commitments, if it’s not a “Hell-yeah!, it’s a “no.” My friend Lorraine Ladish shared this with me, and wow, does it help. It’s a clear reminder to only do the things we are passionate about. No more doing things out of guilt, to look busy, to procrastinate. Don’t say yes to everything! Think of it this way, each thing you say YES to is a child you are responsible for – you have to feed it, nurture it, see it through. If you know in your gut at the beginning that you are not going to follow though, do everyone a favor and let it go. Keep a short list of other fabulous people you can connect with the opportunities that are not a good fit for you.
4. Really, truly give thanks to those who support you. RT their tweets, share their content. When quality people follow you, instead of sending back a tweet that says “Thank you for following me” – why not retweet something of theirs to SHOW you mean thank you? Plus, it’s just plain boring to have a feed that is all “thank you, thank you, thank you…” If you meet someone fabulous at a conference, send them a shout out, leave a comment, share their content, give them a thumbs up!
5. Don’t butt into others one-on-one meetings.Be cool and respectful when you see a VIP you want to meet. That intro will leave a lasting impression. Earlier this year I was at a conference and had a very important meeting with an executive. We were kinda out of the way, but still in plain sight. Many people I knew walked by and gave me whispered ‘hi’ or mini-wave. One person (a repeat offender) said a grand “Helloooo!”, then came back a second later to present a pitch to the executive, while I sat there in shock. In that five minutes of this person going on and on, I had to quickly reconfigure the closing of my presentation in my head to make it shorter. The executive, embarrassed, apologized to me even though it was not her fault! I could see how annoyed she was. So, as you plot your elevator pitch, also include guidelines of when and where to conduct it. You never want to look desperate or “thirsty” as Maya calls it.
6. If you are on a panel: Keep to the session’s title! Seriously, read it over and over, so you know to present answers that support the topic. People will attend the session based on the title and you don’t want to disappoint. They have spent their hard-earned money and time. Plus, many conferences ask attendees to grade the speakers afterwards. Remember you are there as an expert to share your knowledge with the attendees on the session’s topic. It is not a time to show off all your accolades, awards, and achievements. In the beginning during introductions, share a couple of them, but keep it short. If you offer valuable tips, I guarantee you, people will want to hear more from you and they will go to your web site, tweet your quotes and support you!
7. Bring media kits. Whether it is electronic or a hard copy, you want to back up your words with facts: your mission statement, who you’ve worked with, social media numbers. This is a great way to do that! My friend Megan is a strong business woman and always says, “Tell me, don’t sell me!” A media kit cuts through the fluff and shows the raw goods. That, coupled with your sparkling personality will be a match made in Heaven!
8. Vet those who want to work with you. If you meet someone new, and they seem wonderful, they probably are! But, just to be on the safe side, do a little background check. Ask around, maybe even use Faker Status to see where they stand. Make sure their style does not clash with yours. Whoever you work with is a reflection on you. I had an really embarrassing partnership once for a video channel that not only fell thru, but I didn’t make a penny, and my videos were deleted without advanced notice. That didn’t bug me as much as that I worked so hard to promote the channel to all my contacts. Now those links are broken for all those sites who were kind enough to share it. Another example, a close friend partnered with someone who had an amazingly large following. My friend was so excited, she pitched a campaign for the two of them to a large brand, who then came back with the bad news that this other person had purchased their followers and was blacklisted. Ouchie! So do your homework before you attach your name and brand to someone else’s!
9. Leave room in your suitcase! There are always goodies to bring home! don’t do what I do and leave a coat or pants in the hotel room to make room for swag gifts!
10. Collabs! These are so fun, it’s a great way to meet new bloggers and cross-promote each other! Before you leave for the conference, think about the many ways to can extend your brand. For example, how can you put your own twist on say, food or beauty or fitness?
11. Know who you are talking/pitching to: Before you go up to a brand representative at a conference, do your research. Know their products, their latest campaign, their latest spokesperson, recognize the new products they are promoting. See if those new products line up with what you need for your business. It’s very awkward when people confuse competing brands. i’ve seen it happen, not pretty!
12. Be ready to to reply with specifics. This is a biggie. OK, people will always ask, “What are you up to?” Rather than be generic and say, “Oh, keeping busy!” give a sentence on what you are working on that you want to get help with, “I’m working on a new book, or I’m focusing on a new video series.” You never know who is working on what. This has led to a lot of connections for me because someone will say, “Oh, you should go to talk to Mary from XYZ, she is looking for people for a new project!” It doesn’t mean to overload, just choose one thing per person to give the other person time to share their info with you. Of course, you don’t have to do this with EVERY person, feel out when the vibe is right. Sometimes on the last day of the conference, we’re all like, “I’m over it, I’m ready for home!”
13. Control the chisme!: If you have chisme (gossip or private information) that is really important to share, either save it for a private hotel room or even after the conference. I’ve been to a lot of conferences over the years and yup, I’ve overheard many MANY things. I don’t like to hear people talking smack. It really bums me out, gives me anxiety, and I know I’m not alone. Choose your words carefully in public (and with conference drinky-drinks), because there is always someone who can hear it, change or confuse the context and share it. If it is silly gossip, if you wait until after the conference, you’ll feel like it really isn’t that big of a deal to talk about anyway.
14. Don’t let ANYONE hijack your good energy. When things don’t go as planned or someone hurts your feelings (it happens) or if you mess up, pull a Taylor and shake it off. You are there for YOU, don’t let anyone get in the way of having a great time, learning all you can and being the best that you can be. Pick up and move forward!
TOP TIP: Be positive and excited to share your knowledge and excited to learn! Tag all the things! Take time to party and mingle, but also to get busy. Take a journal to write down all your ideas and takeaways! Help out the event organizers and promote all your favorite memories!
What are your tough love conference tips?