So you are attending Law Practice Division’s Law Firm Marketing Strategies Conference 2014 in St. Louis (or another conference or networking event). You, or your firm, has spent a substantial amount of money to designate you as the firm’s ombudsman for learning everything there is to know from the conference. In preparation for the conference and to maximize the time spent away from the office, consider the following tips before packing your suitcase.
- Do your homework.
Once you have registered for the conference, find out who else will be attending. It never hurts to ask the event organizer to share the conference attendee list. If they can’t, you can troll social media websites to see who else may be attending. Join social media groups that are designated specifically for the conference. Engage in the forum’s conversation about featured speakers or panels, and develop a dialogue with others who will be at the conference either as an attendee or as a speaker.
- Be prepared.
In preparation for the conference, consider everything you may need to maximize this business development effort. Consider why you registered and what you hope to gain from attending. Identify the potential clients you would like to meet and any current clients who could benefit from spending some quality face time with you while you are in the same place for a mutual interest (the conference). Well in advance, make sure you have the appropriate amount of business cards and order more if necessary. Think about the quality of each contact, the topic of each seminar, the primary target market, panelist backgrounds and align these efforts with your goals. Once your goals are identified, you can measure how well you performed upon your return to the office.
- Arrive on time.
Admission to the conference is a gift. Seize the moment. Arrive on time to experience everything. From your flight to the networking events within the conference, be one of the first to arrive to speak with other like-minded attendees who want to maximize their exposure during the conference.
- Be social.
When you arrive on time to an event, don’t be afraid to speak to those sitting near you in a seminar or the folks congregating by the bar. Talk to the people around you; ask questions and develop a dialogue. Prepare your elevator pitch in advance of the conference and be ready to use it at an appropriate time, such as this. It’s important to demonstrate to others that you are personable and knowledgeable and there is no better time to do so than in a social interaction.
- Keep a schedule.
If you are properly prepared and arrive on time, keeping to your predetermined schedule should be no problem. As you prepare for the conference, you should identify all the appointments, seminars and speeches that you want to hear. Put them into an integrated calendar and periodically review them so that you leave no stone unturned.
- Schedule meetings.
At most big conferences, there are opportunities during a break period to schedule time with professional colleagues from around the globe to discuss business prospects, new opportunities, previous projects or futuristic endeavors. Add these meetings to your schedule (see tip # 4).
- Listen and take notes.
Whether in the audience of a keynote speaker or having a one-on-one meeting with a professional colleague from the industry, be an active listener. Know when to stop talking; nobody wants to hear someone go on too long or too far. Instead, engage your target in conversation. Learn about them, their business, and their competition. Take stellar notes to refer back to. Note any items that require follow up after the event (see tip # 8).
- Become a resource and an advisor.
The conference is still active even after you have left. Be sure to refer to your notes (see tip # 6) and deliver any specific items that were identified during the course of a conversation with a colleague. These deliveries show that you have gone the extra mile and often put you in the category of a resource to other professionals. You can make yourself invaluable by giving something—a recommendation, a sample, a “saw this and thought of you” moment forever leaves a positive impression. A personal touch goes a long way for many people.
- The post event re-introduction.
Follow up with those individuals that you met for the first time and introduce yourself, as appropriate, on social media communities. Personalize the outreach and identify yourself as a fellow attendee at the conference. In this communication, if possible, reference something that you may have discussed in their presence. It warms the introduction and will likely be remembered and very much appreciated.
- Get involved.
If you determine that the conference was well worth your time, the cost and the effort that you put into attending and maximizing the opportunities from the conference, consider getting involved in a future conference. If you noticed that there was room for improvement in one area, tell someone. Conference organizers always want feedback, good or bad. If you have a skillset that could add value to the conference, tell someone and get actively involved in a future program.
Nancy L. Gimbol, MBA, is the Director of Marketing and Firm Administration at Eastburn and Gray, P.C. in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. She can be reached at (215) 345-7000.