It only takes a minute to glance at your Twitter feed to realize that the summer tech and marketing conference season is in full swing. Hashtags that defy logic fly around the Internet all day while you sit at your desk and stare into yet another excel document. If you’re not careful, you can develop a serious case of FOMO if you don’t happen to be attending the event that everyone is talking about online.
From The Cannes Lion Festival to Apple’s WWDC to Personal Democracy Forum to Google I/O to FORTUNE Brainstorm Tech to Blogher to TechCrunch Disrupt – there are no shortage of events and conferences to attend in the next few months.
But whether these conferences are invite-only or open to the public, one thing that remains the same: these conferences are not cheap. The ticket prices along with the time out of the office plus the cost of travel and hotels can create a major dent in any company’s marketing budget, so it is important that you know the reasons to attend a conference and how to make the most of it.
Here are seven ways to help you and your company get the most out of your conference experience:
- Plan ahead. Buy tickets early. Most conferences offer reduced prices if you buy tickets early on. Even if you don’t know who will be able to go, the conference organizers can typically swap people in and out, but you can save hundreds of dollars if you plan ahead and buy your ticket early. Tickets for conferences typically go on sale about 6-9 months ahead of the date of the event.
- Book your hotel and travel early. Yes, there is a pattern here. By booking your hotel rooms early, you will save a lot of money and likely be closer to the venue where the conference is held. As those who have been to SXSW often admit, you should practically book your hotel for the following year the minute you check out of your room. You will save money on the room, on taxis and save your sanity if you simply reserve a few rooms ahead of time.
- Pitch Your Talent: Conference organizers have a tough task to put together enjoyable programming with people who are willing to travel to speak and present. If you know you have a story tell and a compelling panelist, make sure to track down the conference organizer, make your pitch and offer to find the rest of the panelists. This will make the life of the organizer easier, it will ensure a reduced or free ticket to the conference and gives you a reason to attend beyond the regular networking and education opportunities.
- Study The Speaker List. Before attending a conference, make sure to study the speaker list to see who might be there that you’d like to connect with. Make sure to email the speakers with a request to meet before or after their presentation. Also, check out who is sponsoring and attending to see if you can set up breakfasts, lunches, coffees and dinners in advance of the event. You will get a lot more out of the conference if you are organized and know who you want to talk to ahead of time.
- Promote Your Attendance. The last thing to do before you attend a conference is to tell the world you will be at #WWDC14 #PDF14 #BrainstormTech #Blogher #BBNGT #MobileCircus, #DefCon, etc. This will help you connect with others who are going and start networking before the conference even begins.
- Report Back. While at the conference, take notes about new ideas and innovations that you want to bring back to the company. Schedule a debrief session and share your findings and takeaways so that everyone can gain something from your conference experience.
- Follow Up. Once you’ve settled back at your desk after a few days away, make sure to go through the business cards you have collected and follow up via email, LinkedIn, Twitter to make sure you don’t lose the valuable connections you made.