Forbes Russia has recently published my new article (the original in Russian) and I’d like to make it available in English, too. It addresses an issue of efficient participation and how an attendee is responsible for making it work almost as much as organisers are. I believe following some simple yet important rules will help everybody attending a conference or a congress gain maximum benefit out of it. Thus, by moving towards each other, and not in the opposite directions, organisers and attendees may feel and actually get the full value an event can provide.
Below is my translation of the article.
1.9 million meetings with 251 million meeting participants (including 6 million international participants) and $184.2 billion of GDP directly generated by the industry in 2016 – these are the impressive stats on economic impact of the US meetings industry in 2016 published by Events Industry Council in February 2018. As specified in the report, ‘Meetings direct spending is growing, expanding 23% since 2009, primarily due to an expanding number of meeting participants’.
Note ‘an expanding number of meeting participants’: this actually says more people attend business events of various kind. However the reason for that is not only the improving quality of events. Another reason is that attendees are getting more and more aware about the value events provide.
No doubt, not every event is exemplary when it comes to how it is designed and executed. Not every event turns out to be a useful tool for attendees’ professional or personal development.
But it’s important to remember that any event is a two-way street, and to achieve the best results some effort is required – not only on the organisers’ side, but the participants’ side, too.
So let’s talk about what rules an attendee can follow to make sure they get maximum out of participation.
Every year there are 21 864 conventions held annualy in Las Vegas.
Every day we get invites to attend an event – within the country or abroad. They are so many, even within a particular field of activity, that most of us get caught by the paradox of choice – when there are so many options to choose from, one refuses to make choice at all. However, if you know how to choose ‘your’ event, this task gets much simplier.
First, subscribe to channels announcing events in your field. This way you’ll be skimming through short ads with just event’s name and dates, without wasting your time on irrelevant info.
Second, pay close attention to your fellows’ recommendations and/or ask those who participated in the event before. Reviews of real attendees together with the rest of information on the event will help you make the right decision.
Third, assess the event’s website. Website is a business card of the event, and a well-designed event has an meaningful, user and mobile-friendly webpages.
Do your homework
Your homework includes tasks of both strategic and operational nature:
— make a list of all your goals for the event. Think over why you are attending the event and what outcomes you expect;
— determine who you’d like to meet in person and try to schedule an appointment yourself (unless the organisers provide you with a tool to do it);
— if this is a large conference, follow its organisers on social media. Note that it’s not about following the official accounts of the event, but rather personal accounts of its main people. Typically these professionals talk a lot about their event, its nuances, key stages and benefits. This way you’ll get a better (and more comprehensive) feel about the event quality. Also, you’ll form your own opinion about individuals behind the event. If they are appealing to you, it is another sign – not a decisive though – that you may like the event experience;
— prepare whatever you’ll need for the event, according to your goals: business cards, relevant info about the company etc. Do not forget personal stuff that would make you feel comfortable throughout the event.
Use tools offered by the organisers
The organiers use ever growing set of tools for audience engagement before, during and post-event. These all are aimed to make you get maximum out of the event so please do not ignore what they suggest to do.
You’ve been invited to the event’s group on Facebook or Telegram? Join and use it by asking organisers your questions, connecting with other participants and – if you like the event – inviting your friends and colleagues to attend.
The event app has been introduced? Download it – at the very least it will be useful to check the event’s schedule and get notified about the almost inevitable last minute changes.
The organisers urge you to ask questions or take part in the interactive poll after the session? Hold on for another five minutes: your vote matters and can be crucial for the event’s content.
The event suggests some new formats and tech? Try those most interesting and relevant to you. It might be a coloring book, braindate or VR. You can’t tell what would work for you and spark your creativity or become the first step in the new project. At the very least, these all will make you feel new emotions.
You’ve got the post-event information? Do not put it aside, examine it asap. This way you’ll help yourself to retain information you got during the event. Besides, when re-reading it after the event you may find you still have questions (which you forgot or perhaps did not want to ask during the event). In this case go and email speaker(s) if there is such option, right away: the speakers are usually available within specific amount of time before/after the event, so you don’t want to miss them.
Plan your actions after the event
Part of those would be related to your goals. Another part would become obvious once the event is over: for example, you’ll need to email new acquintances, study extra material the speaker provided or answer the post-event survey.
The latter, by the way, is often thought as a waste of time. However, it is not – please take it as serious as possible. It is a big mastake to think your opinion does not change anything – nowadays as never before, every attendee’s opinion is crucial for the consequent event planning and thus has impact on the content quality and overall efficiency of the event.
Please spend enough time answering the survey in as much detail as you can – this would be your contribution to the business.
Write down your experiences
…and share it with the organisers. This is a very productive exercise. For you, it is an opportunity to think over what you can do better next time (it may not refer to this very event). For example, you find that it is much more comfortable for you to arrive early to the vebue, or that some specific format is not suitable for you. For the organisers your detailed feedback is as good as gold: it helps tune in the next event even more efficient.
An event is not and only new knowledgem networking and leads.
A good event is a change catalyst.
How will you apply what you’ve learnt? How will you communicate with new colleagues? What solutions and insights will you get during the conference or afterwards?
Thus the most important thing you can take away from the well-designed and executed event is a desire to change what requires changes, and a specific action plan to achieve your professional goals.