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Top Five Best Practices for Getting the Most Out of Your Next Federal IT Conference

Step 1: Prepare Beforehand

Plan your time wisely. This is one of the most critical steps of attending a Federal IT conference. Prior to the conference, look up what speakers, booths or sessions the conference has to offer and decide ahead of time what opportunities would be the most beneficial to you.

Large conferences often have many different sessions that you can attend and, usually, it’s impossible to make them all. So be sure to pick sessions that are of interest to you, that show a range of topics and that will have you ending the day learning something new.

It is equally important to make sure you are well prepared beforehand. Have your elevator pitch nailed down and your business cards packed and ready to go.

Pro tip, set aside comfortable shoes to wear to the event. Trust me, you will be on your feet the majority of the day and the last thing you want is to be thinking about your feet.

Step 2: Go in with a Purpose

You’ve decided to go to the event, and you’ve prepared ahead of time. Now it’s time to make sure you execute effectively.

Think about why you are attending the conference and what you hope to achieve by being there.

From there, prioritize your goals; whether that be networking with new accounts, pitching your work, learning about new developments in the field, or a mixture of all three. Even if you’ll be doing a combination of the three, make sure you know which is most important to you and your current career so that you are better able to allocate your time to achieve your goals while you’re there.

Pro tip, Smile! You can get bogged down and overwhelmed thinking about all you hope to accomplish during the day. Be a friendly and approachable smile that draws people to you.

Step 3: Network

Network. Network. Network. Conferences are set up in a way that lends itself to new opportunities to build relationships.

Having a good conversation? Schedule a lunch meeting. Meet someone new? Give them your business card. If there is someone you’ve been wanting to connect with or have connected with previously that you want to continue the conversation with while at the conference, shoot them an email prior to the event and set a time to grab lunch while you’re there.

Now with all that is going on during the day, don’t forget about common courtesy. We all work in the field and know that we often sell to sellers. Respect the sellers selling their solutions to their prospects. Politely excuse yourself when a prospect enters their booth space.

Pro tip, always be on you’re A-game. Most conferences have charging stations. It’s a great place to strike up conversation while you both wait for your phone to charge.

Step 4: Take Notes

This may not be something you’ve thought of doing or even really want to do, but trust us, you’ll thank us later.

With so many new faces, fresh conversations, and people talking a million miles a minute, it’s going to be hard to remember every person and conversation you had during the day. Make quick notes of meaningful conversations and key takeaways from sessions you listened to.

In addition, write down any follow-ups you want to do either with someone you networked with or a speaker on a topic. These notes will make it that much easier to jog your memory and give you specific to-do’s when you get to work the next day.

Pro tip, if carrying around a notebook all day isn’t your forte, jot the notes down in your phone. Even something as simple as “Joe Shmoe: Schedule meeting at end of month” will significantly help you remember when it’s time to follow through on your goals for the day.

Step 5: Follow up

Just because the conference is over, doesn’t mean your job is done. Following up is critical to the overall achievement of your goals.

Start by sending LinkedIn requests to everyone you encountered during the day. Then, within a week of the event, send personal follow-ups to everyone you met to let them know you enjoyed your conversation. And finally, set up phone calls or face-to-face meetings with anyone you specifically want to continue the conversation and build a relationship with.

Pro tip, once all is said and done, make sure to monitor those emails requesting meetings and follow up if you don’t hear back right away. People are busy and emails get overlooked, but a friendly reminder could be just what they needed to get that meeting on the calendar.

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