How to Prepare for a Networking Conference

How to prepare for a networking conference

With the PRSA National Conference coming up in Indianapolis, I thought I would share a blog post on what conferences are like, and to show up prepared. If you no plans to attend a networking conference throughout your college career, then I highly suggest that you reconsider! They are a fantastic learning experience, and you never know who you'll meet.

Attending a conference is very beneficial to you, as long as you come prepared. It's a great way to learn what's new in the industry, and meet fellow professionals, colleagues, or students. So what can you do to make the most out of attending a PR conference? I'm sharing what I did that helped me make the most out of my experience.

Study the conference schedule beforehand, and know which speakers you want to meet.

Conferences will have their schedules posted on their website. It's important that you know when they will be speaking because some seminars will overlap each other. If there's two speakers you really want to see that are presenting at the same time, you'll have to make a choice on which one interests you more and will help you with your career.

When I attended the PRSA National Conference in 2014, I was interested in learning more about non-profits and politics. The Director of Marketing from the American Red Cross was there, so I saw her. She gave a lot of great insight on why it's such a heartwarming opportunity, and there's lots of perks to her job like meeting Keith Urban and Selena Gomez. Pretty cool, right?

Engage in the Twitter hashtag.

This is another great way to meet new people, and expand your Twitter network if you participate in the Twitter hashtag that the conference creates. You can share what you're learning at the seminars you attend, and you can see what speakers are sharing with their respective audiences at seminars that you can't attend firsthand.  

Sometimes these hashtags temporarily go viral on Twitter. This is great news! You can really expand on your engagement, and generate leads. Think of it this way: if you're a student, a business looking for an intern might be impressed with your Twitter presence and reach out to you; if you're a working professional, others might follow you out of admiration, or want to learn more about the product or service you're selling. It's a win-win for anyone that utilizes Twitter correctly. 

Buy business cards, and bring them with you.

Business cards are golden in the world of personal branding. You should keep them in your back pocket at all times. There will be networking mixers to attend at any conference, and they could be a waste of your time without business cards. Why? Because everyone is meeting dozens of new people every day at the mixers and seminars. They aren't going to remember everybody's names, let alone their email or LinkedIn profile.

Having a business card is a physical reminder if who you are, and how to get in contact with you. Some people include their pictures on their cards; others will share their logo and website. If you're a student, it's a good idea to include your school, your major, and your digital portfolio.

Practice your elevator pitch.

You've heard of the elevator pitch, right? You want to be able to sell yourself in the amount of time it takes to travel from one floor to the next on an elevator. It's not the easiest thing to do, but it can be done, with practice. In your pitch you want to accomplish the following: explain who you are, and what you do as well as why you would be a great person to work with. 

What could you say to make yourself memorable? How can you say it in 30 seconds or less? Once you have these two questions answered, your elevator pitch is on the right track! Now get out there and start promoting yourself. 

And finally:

Be willing to listen and learn.

You're there because you want to learn something new. You're there because you want to expand your network. However, networking is a two way street. Everyone there is just as anxious and ambitious as you are to take the next step in their respective career. Take the time to listen to others when they introduce themselves to you. Remember their names and passions as well as you can. Definitely follow up with everyone you meet! Don't wait for them to add you on LinkedIn first. You made it this far, what's a little bit more effort on your part? :)

I hope these ideas help you. They certainly helped me! I can't wait to have the opportunity to attend another conference. I'm hoping to go to the Social Media Week sometime in the next year.

What advice do you have for attending a conference? Have you attended any that are worth mentioning in the comments?

Miranda Hassen