Are you bound for a customer experience conference this year? The SmarterCX team and I are fortunate to cover customer experience events across the country, speak with CX leaders, see the latest CX tech, and also work with talented events staff who make it all happen.
If you’re a CX professional, like our team, you’ve probably “worked” many of these events as a keynote speaker, exhibitor, or in another official capacity. Maybe you’re even lucky enough to go as an attendee to learn, network, and take in the latest tips and trends.
No matter which “hat” you’re wearing at your next event, we wondered, what’s a good strategy for making the most of a CX conference?
We asked event pros, attendees, and speakers alike for their tips. Here’s what we learned.
Looking for your next CX conference? Visit our 2019 – 2020 Customer Experience Conference and Events calendar.
Tip #1: Prepare your questions
My top tip for conference and important event attendees is to plan your focus. The best way to do that is to first review the speakers and what you expect to learn. Prepare for yourself a few questions for the segments that are most relevant to your goals so that when it is Q&A time, you are ready to jump to the front of the line to get your questions answered by experts.
Julia Askin, Marketing Coordinator, Fueled
Tip #2: Utilize online resources ahead of time
When attending an industry event or conference, preparation is key! If your goal is to learn, then make sure you sign up for email updates from the event so that you are the first to know about any new agenda items they may have. Go through the event schedule and bookmark the panels or seminars that strike you most and plan out your days. Remember, lines might be long so plan for time in between sessions.
Also, check to see if the event has an online forum to schedule meetings with other attendees. Schedule as much as you can ahead of time and be ready to be flexible, as schedules can change on the fly.
Kristen Harold, CEO, KMH Marketing
Tip #3: Outline specific goals
The best advice I have about attending conferences is to decide upfront what you are wanting to get out of the conference and be as specific as possible. Some examples are: get 5 new customer leads, get specific questions answered about the topic, meet other industry professionals and create a mastermind group, etc. The more specific the better. This will enable you to stay focused on why you are there and help you to feel that you have accomplished something.
Jennifer Murtland, Team Leader, Team Synergi
Tip #4: Schedule meetings with industry contacts pre-conference
If the event you’re attending is industry specific, send out emails a couple weeks ahead of time to vendors or potential customers asking them if they’ll be attending. By making contact ahead of time, you’ll likely be able to secure a time slot to meet and discuss potential partnerships. Some of our most important business relationships are a direct result of cold emails and then quick introduction meetings at conference events. You’d be surprised how receptive people are to meetings when attending a conference.
Matthew Ross, Co-Founder & COO, The Slumber Yard
Tip #5: Tweet who you want to meet
To get the most out of a conference, I recommend making a list of 3 – 5 people, either speakers or attendees, that you really want to connect with during the event. Then make online connections with them beforehand by retweeting and replying to a few tweets or sending them a thoughtful message about one of their articles. At the event you can bring up a topic you already connected about online and make an effort to make an in-person connection. This is much better than going in blind and simply reacting to the atmosphere around you and lets you plan in advance who it’ll be most beneficial to connect with.
Stacy Caprio, Founder, Growth Marketing
Tip #6: Carry a notebook
Prior to the conference, write down your EDUCATIONAL intent for the event. What are the three learnings you want to take away from the event? Carry a notebook, and IMMEDIATELY after the keynote speech/breakout session, write down the three main points that resonated with you or that added educational value. Following the conference, write up five takeaways from the conference you can share with your staff/family/friends.
Dr. Lori Baker-Schena, MBA, EdD, Co-Founder and LeadHER, LeadHERship Consortium, LLC
Tip #7: Focus on the content, not your laptop
I see time and time again … people working on their laptop whilst at a conference. If you’re so busy that you can’t not be working whilst you’re at a conference, just don’t bother. The work you’re doing will be of poor quality because you’re half listening to something else and you’ll likely retain almost none of the information the speaker is giving you. Either go to the office or go to the conference, don’t do both.
James Robinson, Marketing Manager, Buffalo 7
Tip #8: Be ready with something to offer
Important tip for conference attendees: One of the most important reasons people attend conferences is to build and strengthen their network. Yet the vast majority of people have NO NETWORKING PLAN in place when attending these events. They might attend the mixers – which can be very difficult to navigate – or stare at name badges to try to figure out who to approach, but otherwise, they’re wandering around looking for connections.
1) Know the range of people who might be going: vendors, associated industries, educators, students, B2B prospects, consumers? Who in this group do you need to connect with?
2) Have something to offer THEM when you meet someone. Don’t just make it all about finding out what you can get.
3) Pre-network by posting on any discussion boards or social media groups for the event or for the industry. Start asking: Who is going to this event? Then, you can research who is going and reach out to them in advance.
Beth Bridges, Conference Networking Speaker and Expert, www.TheNetworkingMotivator.com
Tip #9: Everybody has to eat
If you’re an exhibitor, the most important time at a convention is spent away from your booth. That time should be used for informal meetings over coffee, breakfast, lunch, cocktails and dinner. It’s important to remember no matter how busy people may be, everybody has to eat, so that is valuable time usually not booked on their schedule. It’s best to set meetings before the conference as best as you can, but also be flexible as you bump into people you either know or want to know as contacts or potential customers.
If you see someone in the elevator or exhibition hall, don’t be afraid to ask if you can buy them a cup of coffee or lunch to get on their radar. Booth and session conversations are important too, but dedicated one-on-one time without easy distractions is key to getting the most out of a conference.
Steven Lynch, General Manager, Legal Division, Lucas Group
Tip #10: Get out there and have fun
If you are in a city you haven’t visited before, do a little research in advance and if time permits, get out of the hotel and see the city. Have fun.
Trish Meade, Senior Director, Travel Unity