Whether it's your first business conference, or you're an old pro who has been attending them for years, let's talk about a few ways you can make the most of that business conference you're attending. This week is Twin Cities Startup Week 2021 (#TCSW21) and the Twin Cities area has a bunch of events for startup founders, small business owners, and those who deal with small businesses. There have been social events, educational events and lots of other fun things, capped off with the startup awards at the end of the week. So, if you're attending Twin Cities Startup Week (or any other business conference), here are the five tips I have found that can help you get the most out of the conference.
Grab Your Coffee or Tea
When you start the morning, make sure you grab your coffee, your tea, your smoothie, whatever you like to drink. You want to make sure you're awake and alert and ready to go and learn. Depending on where your conference is, you may not be able to count on a quality cup of coffee awaiting you when you arrive.
Grab Your Swag Bag
The second thing you want to do, that goes with grabbing your coffee, is to make sure you pick up your swag bag or other materials from the conference organizers (for Twin Cities Startup Week, we got sweatshirts and t-shirts). Usually there's more in there than just advertising or promotional materials and some of it can be quite useful.
Grab A Notebook or Pad
One of the indispensable things that I take to all conferences is some kind of a notebook with a nice pen that you like to write with. Make sure it's comfortable for writing all day long. Put your phone away, your emails are going to be there when you get done at the end of the day. Take out your notebook, take out your pen, write down your notes, pay attention. It's much more engaging when you're writing down what you are learning than if you're just sitting there tapping away on your phone all day.
Talk to People
While you're putting that phone away, the fourth tip I have is to make sure you're talking to people. Take the opportunity, you may never be in the same room with these people again. The other night I was at the opening party for Startup Week talking to a variety of people who'd never even met a lawyer. They were working in small businesses, they heard of lawyers, maybe they were thinking they need one someday, but they'd actually never met a lawyer (which sounds weird to me because as a lawyer I meet people all the time). But then I realized that a lot of people don't meet lawyers. The other thing you should do is talk to people in other industries, figure out what they're working on. Some of the most interesting conversations I had were with people in the medical tech field and other startups doing things that I've never even heard of, including finding new ways to bridge the gap between healthcare providers and people who don't speak English as a first language. When you talk to these folks, you can figure out what they're doing and see if there's a way to apply what they're doing to your business.
Have an End of the Day Recap
The biggest tip I can share is at the end of the day, take your time and do a recap. You can take a page in your journal and just write out what you learned that day, who did you meet, what are the next steps, who do you want to talk to next. Did you have any great ideas for your business? Use whatever note-taking device you're using (whether it's your phone, whether it's a tablet, whether it's your notebook), but make sure you do an end-of-the-day recap so that you can get everything out of your mind.
Finally, get a good night's sleep, and be ready to start the next day. Feeling awake and ready is the best way to start a day of learning.