Preparing for an upcoming conference? The key to making the most of an event, both personally and professionally, is to arm yourself with information.
After registering for a conference – or even before – contact the event management team to find out more about what to expect. These five questions can help you prepare for an optimal conference-going experience.
1. Are there speaking or vending opportunities?
If you want to have a more professionally challenging, but also fulfilling and valuable, experience at a conference, you may consider sharing your expertise on a particular topic by speaking or leading a workshop. Ask the event management team what activities already are booked or if they’re looking for more industry professionals to serve on a panel. Not only can you establish yourself "as a credible expert,” but you also may get unique insider access to the event, according to the HubSpot blog. Vending also is a way to get value from a conference that you might not consider just attending. Ask the management team what sort of vendors they are looking for and how to apply.
2. Can I get details on the agenda?
Most events and conferences have a schedule or agenda posted online at least a couple months ahead of time, but it might not be very detailed. An indicator of a well-planned and worthwhile conference is an organized agenda packed full of sessions, speakers and activities, but also some free time for socializing and networking. To help you prepare your personal game plan, ask the management team for more information about educational sessions, exhibitors, presenters and other items on the agenda so you can make informed decisions about which ones are most important to you.
3. Who are the speakers?
If you want to get a better sense of what to expect from a conference, ask the management team who is speaking. As Melanie Franke points out on the G/O Digital Marketing blog, “the keynote speakers will tell you a lot about the overall tone of the event.” Once you have names, do a little research on the speakers. You might even find clips of them in action via YouTube or other online sources. Not only is it good to know who the keynotes are, but also the speakers or instructors for all sessions. This helps you “do your best to determine which sessions are worth going to and which ones are skippable,” Franke writes.
4. Who is going to the conference?
One of the main reasons for going to an event is to interact with fellow conference attendees, network and establish connections. Ask the management team what level or type of employees the conference is targeting. Knowing who else will be there helps you determine if the planned and informal encounters you will have can lead to valuable business connections. As Jackson Wightman writes in a special to The Globe and Mail, if you’re a company executive with decades of experience, you may not find much value attending a “101-level event” with industry newbies. Consider this as you organize your schedule for a conference, or even before you register.
5. How do you accommodate persons with disabilities and allergies?
If you or a colleague has a disability, contact the event management team to find out what accommodations they will make for you. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires organizations that “lease space in public facilities for events, conferences, seminars or meetings to ensure those activities are accessible for people with disabilities,” according to a post on the Event Manager Blog. The conference center should have ramps, elevators and automatic doors, as well as special hearing equipment, wheelchairs and more. If you have food allergies, it’s also important to find out if the event will have food prepared that is safe for you to consume.
Don’t attend your conference without key information and proper planning. Reaching out to the event management team with your questions in advance can help you set your expectations, tentatively budget your time and save you and the organizers frustration if special accommodations need to be made.
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