After experiencing a lull during the holiday season, the conference and exhibition circuit is back in action. In fact, just this past month, the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) posted its largest and best show to date, hosting 32,000 exhibitors and 150,000 attendees.
Attending a conference is a great opportunity to network with others, learn new things and best practices, investigate new products, and strengthen existing relationships.
For those of you in the ITSM sphere, there are several very popular and large conferences happening in the upcoming months – Pink14 in Las Vegas on Feb 16-19, HDI in Orlando on April 1-4, followed by The Service Desk and IT Support Show (SITS) in London on April 29-30.
If you're planning on attending any of these (or others), you should consider the following 10 tips to help you prepare:
1. Plan Ahead for Out of Office: One of the biggest challenges in attending a conference is leaving your normal business duties behind. In the weeks leading up to the conference be sure to get work done ahead of time to ease your workload. Moreover, let your clients know that you will be traveling during the allotted time.
2. Determine a Budget: Although extremely beneficial, conferences and tradeshows can be costly as there are many elements to consider such as hotel accommodations, registration fees, travel, transportation, and more. Make sure you sit down with the appropriate people in your organization to set a budget.
3. Set a Goal: Setting a well-defined goal is important. If you're simply attending (not exhibiting), your goal may be to learn about the new emerging technologies that are on the market to help streamline your most pressing business challenges.
4. Do Your Homework: Take advantage of exhibition handbooks and resources you receive before the conference to choose which session events and keynotes are right for you. This way, you will be able to effectively prioritize your time and ensure you don’t miss out on anything important.
5. Stay Close: Check to see if the conference organizers have reserved hotel rooms at a special discounted rate. If possible, book a hotel that is in close proximity to the conference so you don't have to worry about taxis or shuttles. It's also a good idea to book lodging and transportation well in advance.
6. Book Any Appointments in Advance: As you know, conferences are extremely busy. If you plan on meeting with exhibitors, delegates, or press, be sure to make appointments well in advance. This will ensure that you allot time to those who are most important.
7. Prepare Promotional Materials: Conferences are a great opportunity to meet face-to-face with vendors, industry experts, and fellow delegates in your respected space. Always carry business cards with you and make sure your badge is in plain sight while walking around. You never know who you might run into, so practice your best elevator pitch so you can articulate your company's story at a moment's notice.
8. Dress Professional, Yet Comfortable: Remember you’re a representative of your company so dress professionally, yet comfortable. Ladies, ditch the high heels and guys, don’t wear a brand new pair of shoes as you will be walking around for extended periods of time.
9. Network Before the Event: Leverage social media before and during the conference to let vendors and other industry experts know that you will be attending. This way, you can get the word out and possibly set up appointments in advance.
10. Bring a Buddy: Depending on the size of the conference, it might be a good idea to bring another colleague along so you don’t miss out on any opportunities. Make sure to choose someone who is experienced and can also benefit from attending.
At SysAid, we have a jam-packed schedule ahead of us, as we'll be exhibiting at ITSM conferences (those I mentioned at the top) in the US and UK in February and April. We hope to see you there! Tell us… what conferences do you plan on attending?