7 Tips to Get the Most From a Conference

Conference season is upon us. I’ll be attending two in the coming weeks, and I’m really looking forward to them. Through the years I have learned a few tricks to maximize what I get out of a conference.

1. Do your prep work. Ahead of the conference, review the schedule, the hotel location, amenities and anything else that is important to you. For example, I always find out how safe the area is for walking or if there is an onsite workout facility.

2. Review the schedule. You don’t want to miss the one session you should attend because you are elsewhere. One of the conferences I am attending is for mystery writers and fans. I looked up my favorite authors and have highlighted their sessions so I can be sure to sit in on their panels and hear their advice.

20160829_1956273. Bring the right tools. I now take a mini multi-prong adapter with me when I travel. I can plug in two devices and two USB cables. I can’t tell you how many times I have been to a hotel and I can’t find an electric outlet that is easily accessible. Traveling with this device lets me plug everything in in one spot.

Did you know that most conference attendees bring three mobile devices to conferences, according to the Benchmark Resorts and Hotels 2014 list of trends? I also go old-school and bring a highlighter, which is perfect for marking the program and a tablet for writing notes. An envelope or pouch is handy for storing receipts, business cards and any other relevant conference materials.

4. Take a nap. Conferences can be exhausting. Not to mention that most of us also are keeping up with our offices. Given that, sometimes it’s worth it to skip one session or a networking event to take a siesta. The downtime is the perfect way to recharge.

5. Leverage social media. If there is a conference hashtag, follow the tweets to learn what others think about the speakers and topics. Share your take-aways on Twitter or LinkedIn. You can also acknowledge great speakers, conference staff and hotel staff.

6. Network successfully. I am not talking about walking around and collecting business cards. I am talking about introducing yourself to a few people, and then asking them questions about what they do. If you make a connection, continue the conversation and find out if there is a way you might assist them. Sometimes, it’s as simple as sending them a link for a resource. Be sure to follow up.

7. Block your first morning back. I always block the first morning I return to the office. I use this time to identify my priorities for the week, respond to outstanding requests and review emails. I also use the time to follow-up on conference items. This includes connecting on LinkedIn with people I met at the conference and ordering or downloading books I learned about and want to read. I also create a short document of my take-aways so they aren’t quickly forgotten. (To read about one I recently created, check out this blog.)

If you have a suggestion to add to this list, please leave a comment with it.

 

 

 

 

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My Travel Checklist

I travel a lot, often for work and at one point internationally a few times a year. I’ve developed some tricks and tips to make it easier, and to not forget anything.

I’ll leave it to you to figure out what you need to pack in terms of clothes; just remember, less is more. I prefer to use a carry-on only, even for long trips and trips that involve multiple functions.

So as I wander the globe, here are some tips I’ve picked up or developed –

On your phone, enter the name, phone number and address of your hotel under “Hotel.” Each time you travel, update it with the next hotel. I find this particularly helpful in foreign countries where I’m likely to mispronounce it when telling a driver where I need to go.

Get a passport wallet or something similar and keep your important details in it. I keep a bit of cash, my passport and the credit card (usually associated with the airline I am traveling) in the wallet. Make copies of everything, and keep the copies in a different place. If you are traveling with someone, give it to that person. He should do the same.

Buy a small satchel for your chargers. I keep them all in one place. I stow them in my carry-on bag, but sometimes I am forced to gate check the bag. With the satchel I simply grab it and go. No fumbling for chargers that I’ve tucked throughout the suitcase.

Find a small bag (even a sealed sandwich bag works) – I prefer one of the free bags from a makeup counter – and put your pens, highlighters, stamps, envelopes and business cards in it. This way you already have everything you need. I find highlighters useful for marking up programs so I know what I want to attend. When you collect business cards, put them in this bag and then follow up in the evening or when you return to the office. The stamps are in case you want to send a letter or a thank you note. I find if I write my thank yous while at the conference, they get done and mailed. Since everyone complains about too much email, I find an old-fashioned note is often appreciated. The envelope is to store your receipts if you aren’t doing so electronically.

What are your travel hacks?

Do ‘The Hustle’ to Succeed at Pitching

Ever since I was in D.C. the other week, I can’t stop humming The Hustle, and it has nothing to do with the upcoming election, and everything to do with Michael Smart’s presentation on pitching the media.

Michael is an independent communications trainer who helps PR pros improve their pitching success rate and enhance their PR writing. He is regularly among the highest-rated speakers at the industry’s largest conferences. Last month he gave an outstanding presentation and then later, I spoke with him in further detail about some of his points, including how important it is for media and PR practitioners to hustle. “You have to know your boundaries and constraints within which you are going to go all out,” he said.Michael Smart

It’s important to not settle. That means don’t just send an email to the faculty expert you are trying to connect with a reporter. If you don’t hear back, call the person, go by their office, check with the department chair. If the story is that important, you want to connect your expert with the reporter and that means going the extra mile “for a journalist who is of a certain caliber.”

Part of being successful at The Hustle is setting boundaries. Those boundaries enable you to have room for the high-caliber journalists. Michael recommended PR pros spend 80 percent of their time pitching the top 20 percent of their media list.

He said it also is important to develop a service mindset that is useful to reporters. “Don’t send reporters things that won’t help them,” Michael said.

No matter how good you are at The Hustle, it may not be good enough for your boss. Michael stressed that a boss has their institution’s best interest in mind. “Respect their judgment and authority,” he said. “Don’t let it affect your professionalism.”

Sometimes you have to switch up your moves. Today, Michael says, PR practitioners can use online metrics as assets when they pitch. If an online story already has 50,000 views overnight or has been shared thousands of times on Facebook, a digital journalist may be interested in the story. It’s also a great way to convince administrators that digital placement is as valuable as print.

He also noted that traditional news hooks no longer work. “It’s important to brainstorm compelling angles beyond what you are given to work with,” Michael said. In other words, “creativity always trumps budget.”

However, some steps never go out of style. Many PR people thought that when Twitter became so popular it would be the way to pitch a story. Many of the reporters speaking at the College Media Conference where Michael spoke said they still prefer good pitches by email.

“Don’t just chase the new, shiny technological tool,” Michael said. “Don’t wholesale abandon something that is working.”

If you want to learn more tips from Michael you can sign up for his weekly email tips. Visit michaelsmartpr.com/articles and you can see the recent tips and opt-in to receive them by email.