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  • 5 Tips for Leveraging Conferences as an Entrepreneur

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    Going to a conference as an entrepreneur can be an exhilarating, exciting experience: you’ll be surrounded by incredible, infectious energy, no matter what kind of conference you’re attending. You’ll get great ideas and have opportunities to learn and grow your business. However, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and paralyzed during a large conference, as there’s so much to see and do. Since tickets can be pricy and you want to make the most of your networking time, remember these 5 tips for an enjoyable and productive event. 

     

    1. Build relationships and collaborate 

    You could spend all your time thinking about your business, and what you can get out of the conference and all the attendees. Or, you could think about building relationships and opening up potential opportunity with every conversation.  Try to ask questions, listen, and figure out what you can do to help better align your company towards its purpose, as well as assist other entrepreneurs and their businesses. Building these relationships can lead to lasting friendships, new business opportunities, and even collaborations with other entrepreneurs and organizations. Don’t let those new relationships fade after the conference either. Make a point to reach out a day or two after the last day of the event to let your new contacts know you’d love to stay in touch and that you’re excited about what they’re doing. You can make this as informal or as structured as you’d like, but don’t let those important relationships fade! 

    To keep organized, consider putting a business card scanner on your phone. It’s super easy to lose cards, and they take up space in your pockets. Digital images are proving their worth in everything from social media to advanced radiography, and there’s no reason to keep business cards analog forever. 

     

    2. Don’t give the hard sell

    At conferences, whether you’re selling your new idea for breakthrough medical technology, discussing strategies to make the education system more STEM friendly, or learning the finer points of restaurant management, pretty much everyone is interested in either buying, selling or taking the next steps. The catch? No one likes a hard sell at the conference. Remember the principles of networking—don’t come right out of the gate with your product or service. Ask a few questions. Let the conversation flow naturally. You’re making connections, and that’s what counts. Relax! 

     

    3. Step out of your comfort zone 

    Networking events and conferences are ideal places to try something new, and yet so many entrepreneurs stick to their comfort zones at events. What’s the point of going to a conference if you’re not going to meet others and attend talks about topics you’re unfamiliar with? Make a point during your planning to choose at least three panels or activities you’ve never explored before. If you’re a bit on the shy side, have a target number of people you’d like to meet. It doesn’t have to be difficult—just start asking questions and you’ll soon find yourself outside of your comfort zone in a positive way. 

     

    4. Check out the latest toys 

    Let’s be real: one of the biggest reasons conferences are so fun is that they’re a great opportunity to check out cool new tech and products. Aside from enjoying the latest toys, you may even get inspiration for your business. Who doesn’t love to see what technology and great minds can accomplish? If you’re in a growing tech market like augmented and virtual reality (which is projected to grow to $407.51 million by 2018), it’s a must to check out what’s new so you can stay on top of trends and have a comprehensive view of what others in your field are doing—even (especially) your competition. 

     

    5. Determine your priorities  

    While it’s important to go with the flow somewhat and let the conference naturally take you to unexpected places, it’s also important to go into the event with a loose plan. This will help you make the most of your time and help prevent disappointment—you’re less likely to miss a great panel if you make a plan. So, before you arrive, take a look at the schedule. What do you want to attend? Who do you want to speak to? What do you want to get out of the conference? Asking and answering these questions will help you have a rewarding and enjoyable conference experience.  

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