It’s springtime, and for entrepreneurs in the Middle East that means it’s time for some great conferences. Next week in Beirut, ArabNet will hold it’s two-day conference on the digital creative sector and then the week after StepConference will host the Middle East’s “most disruptive tech, gaming and design” conference in Dubai.
Conferences are great for entrepreneurs, they are an opportunity to come out of the wilderness and meet peers – something that can be in short supply when first getting a business off the ground. But it’s not just one big party – you need a plan to get the most out of a conference. Here are five tips to maximize your experience.
1. Be there
It’s easy, especially when you’re traveling for a conference, to get excited about the opportunity to see a new city, or catch up with friends who live there. Schedule time before or after for those things. Be present at the conference, and leave your evenings free. When that amazing professional connection invites you along for dinner to discuss your pitch, you don’t want to have to skip because your college roommate is waiting for you at the bar.
2. Remember business cards
Not just yours, theirs. We know, business cards are so 1990s. But at a conference, they can be a great tool. Yes, you can connect on social media while you’re standing there with the person, but every minute you’re on your phone is a minute of face time lost. Get business cards for any connections you make. Sort them into two categories: people to follow-up with after the conference and people to just add to your address book. The best thing about business cards? The back is usually blank - use this to jot down a note about what you want to follow-up with them about, and then that stack is its own to-do list.
Every conference will encourage you to tweet and use its hashtag – it’s free promotion for the conference after all. But there’s a payoff for you too. Especially at larger conferences, you’re not going to meet every attendee. Tweet something on topic and clever – something that adds to the conversation, not just “enjoying conference X.” It’s a great way to get new like-minded followers and potential contacts who you might have missed at the conference itself.
4. Ask a question
If there’s a Q-and-A session after lectures, try to ask a question. Lots of people will wait and try to approach the speaker afterward to ask their question in private. That might make a bigger impression on the speaker, but keep in mind that they are exhausted and have met about three times as many people as the average attendee. Use the Q-and-A time and introduce yourself and your business or organization first - the whole room now knows who you are.
5. Takes notes - but keep them short
It’s good to take notes - if you’re attending six sessions in two days, you’re not likely to remember everything you heard - but if your notes are a novel, you’re not likely to ever review them. Think about key points or takeaways. A list of concrete ideas and actions suggested by a speaker is much more useful than having every third sentence he said written down.