With spring just around the corner, the health IT industry is ramping up for another season of trade shows and conferences. While these events are excellent for learning and networking, they can also be overwhelming. How can you make sure that you’re making the most of your time (and your organization’s dime)? IMO’s veteran Manager of Trade Shows and Events, Lauren Stockl, shares her wisdom below.
1. Review the educational offerings before you arrive
Conferences are a great place to become versed in industry advancements and technology; discover how your peers are handling common issues; and learn from professional leaders. If education is a priority for you, make sure to look through the online catalog and build out your schedule in advance of the actual event. Add your must attend and would like to attend sessions to your calendar right away so that you don’t accidentally double-book yourself once you’re on site. Also, don’t forget to check locations for everything before you register. Just because sessions are in the same building doesn’t mean they’re close – you don’t want to be running back and forth across mile long convention centers all day if you can avoid it!
2. Schedule some meetings
Before the conference, decide which contacts, customers, and vendors you want to meet with and start reaching out as soon as you can. Conference websites will list exhibiting companies, and they often let you filter by product categories and industries. But on the flip side, finding out who’s actually attending from any organization can be trickier. That’s where a little extra work can pay off. Events sometimes provide high level information on who’s attending, or they may even offer an online portal that allows you to reach out directly to an organization and get more details. It’s worth your time to investigate what information the conference shares and to strategize from there.
3. Down time
It can be tempting to pack your conference schedule – there are so many exciting offerings! But it’s important to be realistic if you want to maximize your time. Be honest with yourself, are you really going to make that 7 a.m. meeting the night after the big party? You’re better off setting aside time for a calm morning, planning an early evening if you intend to get to the talk, or at least factoring in a quick walk around the block beforehand so you can pay attention to the presentation.
4. Pics or it didn’t happen
You’ll thank yourself later if you take photos of all the business cards you receive at a trade show. Sure, in the moment it seems like you’ll absolutely remember this person or that product. But when you’re back in the office and trying to find a teeny piece of paper in your luggage, you’ll be glad you’ve got a digital record of your new contact. Bonus points if you jot down a small summary of what you talked about once you’re back to the hotel, which will make it easy to add new contacts to your CRM or email lists. Again – you may think you’ll remember, but time has a way of dulling the details.
5. Set that out of office. And mean it.
Making the most out of an event means not being pulled into stuff back at the home office. Delegate any pressing tasks to a colleague who’s staying behind and can be the point of contact for emergencies. Tell everyone else to hold tight – it’s only a couple of days, and they’re important ones. Wrap up what you can before you leave and trust your home team to cover the rest. But if that’s absolutely not possible, be sure to build in times to check email into your event schedule, set a timer or reminder to do so, and then limit the distractions of back home.
6. Follow up!
Be sure to follow up immediately with any contacts you make during the conference. Everyone is excited with post-event energy, and if you wait too long people may forget what you discussed and who you are. And follow up doesn’t have to be laborious – a quick email or LinkedIn connection request can both go a long way in establishing new relationships.