How to prepare for a conference or workshop

Attending a conference or live event is a big investment of your time and money. But to get the most out of the experience, preparation is vital.

There is nothing more annoying than arriving at an event feeling flustered because you’re late, don’t have everything you need – or even that you haven’t got the dress code right for the occasion.

With that in mind, here’s everything you need to know about preparing for #2020 Sorted and any other event you’re attending.

Not planning on attending any events this year? Read this article on why you should attend industry events and conferences.

1.Research the venue and book travel in advance

The last thing you want is to arrive at the event late, sweaty and flustered, having spent half an hour running around looking for the venue. So book your travel well in advance if you can, get the exact address of the venue and plan your route from the station/airport/car park. Booking travel well in advance can also help you save money on attending the conference. 

Plan to arrive early if you can, but do check what time the doors open and, unless it is unavoidable, don’t arrive before that time. The hour or so leading up to the start of an event is a busy (and sometimes stressful) time for conference organisers, so do them a favour and head to a cafe instead (you can identify one or two nearby as part of your planning). Allowing them to get on with their preparations uninterrupted will help you have a much better conference experience (and give you time to gather your thoughts before you arrive).

2.Study the conference schedule

Spend some time familiarising yourself with the conference schedule, including the time the doors open and timings for breaks and lunch. This will help you plan for networking opportunities – both with other delegates and the speakers. Many conferences have networking over coffee and/or breakfast before the event start, which can be a great time to connect with others delegates and introduce yourself to speakers.  You can view the schedule for #2020 Sorted here.

3. Do some background reading

If there are topics being covered in the conference that are unfamiliar to you, it can be a good idea to do some background reading. 

If you’re not sure where to start, ask the conference organiser if they can recommend any relevant books, blog posts, podcasts and/or videos.

4. Research the speakers

Conferences often provide the opportunity for you to chat to and meet leading experts in your field. So do spend some time looking at the content they create e.g. books, blog posts, podcasts, videos, social media updates so you can ask relevant questions at the event (and get maximum value).

We recommend that #2020 Sorteddelegates find out the following about our speakers:

  • What social media platforms they hang out on the most 
  • Any topics they seem particularly interested in (both personal and professional)
  • What kind of content they create on social media.

We also suggest they use our Twitter list of speakers (and delegates) and start interacting with them prior to the event. Most event organisers create Twitter lists of speakers – if they don’t you can ask them to/create your own.

We recommend our delegates prepare some questions to run past the speakers on the day (which means reading their blogs / checking out their YouTube channels / listening to their podcasts).

5. Connect with other guests

Attending live events is not just about the speakers; you also get to connect with like-minded business owners you might end up working with in the future.

But walking into a conference can be hard – particularly when you don’t know many people.

Even if you haven’t met in person, it’s much easier to walk into an event when you ‘know’ people from social media.

Many event organisers create Twitter lists of delegates so do put aside some time to interact with them ahead of the event. (Here’s our Twitter list for Build Your Audience Live delegates. We also have a dedicated Facebook group). If they don’t have one, get in touch and ask them to create one.

6. Organise your marketing materials

Make sure you have plenty of up-to-date business cards to share with people you meet at the event and any other materials you might want to share. For example, even if I’m not speaking at an event, I usually take along some copies of my book and media diary which often results in online sales.

If you do have a book or physical product, do check with the event organiser about selling it at the event though (and setting up an impromptu book stall at the event is probably not advisable).

7. Plan your social media strategy

Most conferences and events have a dedicated Twitter hashtag you can use before, during and after the event (Build Your Audience Live’s is #BYA2019) which can be a great way to find and stay in touch with other delegates.

Hashtags can get pretty busy during events though, so using an app like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck can help you stay on top of things.

Some may also have dedicated geofilters for Snapchat and/or Instagram, so if you’re active on those platforms, do ask the event organiser about it.

Blogging and/or creating social media content before, during and after the event is a great way to stay top of mind with speakers – and other delegates.

Create some event relevant social media content ahead of the day.

8. Do a technology check

Most event organisers will let you know whether you need to bring a laptop or a tablet (delegates are welcome to bring them to Build Your Audience Live but a pen and paper will do just fine). If in doubt, just ask.  

Before the conference, make sure all your electronic devices are fully charged. Most conference venues do have wall sockets, but usually only a handful – some of which will be in use for the audio and visual equipment – so don’t rely on this being available

Personally I always carry a portable charger for my phone and it’s definitely worth investing in one. I use the Juice Bar.

It’s also worth checking you have enough memory on your phone for taking photos and videos at the event.

Oh and don’t forget your favourite notebook and pen. Event organisers usually have spare paper and pens, but collecting your thoughts in one place is usually much better than scribbling on scraps of paper that can easily be lost.

9. Check the dress code

Most conferences are fairly relaxed these days, so anything generally goes, but if you run your own business, you are your brand. It’s worth thinking about how you want that brand to be perceived and how that is reflected in your personal appearance on the day. Delegates at my events are generally casual/smart casual, which is pretty typical, but do check with the event organiser if you’re unsure.

Do bear in mind that you will be sitting around for long periods of time and that air-conditioned conference halls can get chilly (so having a jumper or cardi in your bag is a good idea). And if you go for killer heels, you might be glad of a change of shoes for the journey home.

Find out if their is a dress code for the event. This is the Janet Murray team, but don’t worry, the delegates don’t have to match the look!

10. Design your follow-up strategy (and block out time for it)

It’s easy to leave a conference full of brilliant ideas – that’s what events are all about. Sadly, it’s just as easy to get bogged down the minute you get back to your desk,  forget everything you’ve learned and not follow up on the opportunities you’ve created. Make sure this doesn’t happen to you by blocking out a few hours (ideally as soon as you get back to your desk) to reflect on what you’ve learned and follow up on the connections you’ve made.

Like the idea of starting 2020 with a content plan for your business? Why not join me and an inspirational group of like minded people at #2020 Sorted in November. Book here