Conferences can seem overwhelming at first, however there are some things you can do to set yourself up for success and ensure you get the most out of your next conference experience. These days there are so many opportunities to get out of your normal environment and network with others who are innovating, creating change & evolving an industry. The automotive industry and its conferences are no exception. A few top notch events that come to mind are; NADA, Digital Dealer, Driving Sales and the CBT Automotive Conference and Expo. Conferences have a lot to offer, but there are certain things to bypass and mistakes to avoid in order to ensure you get the most out of your experience.
I recently attended the Digital Dealer conference in Las Vegas. It was incredible! I had so much information when I got back it was challenging to know where to start. I don’t recall how many events I have been to in the last 15 years, but I can tell you that once you get the idea of how to navigate them effectively, they can be really worthwhile. On the other hand, if you aren’t prepared for the chaos and activity, they can feel like a big waste of time. In the end, it is up to you to take it on and make the most of it!
If you are attending a conference for the first time hopefully this will help make it feel a little less overwhelming. If you have attended a few before, then great! You will know exactly what I am talking about and hopefully this will serve as a reminder and help you to maximize your next experience.
The Pat Flynn “5 Second Rule”
Pat Flynn is an online entrepreneur I have followed closely in recent months. His ‘5 second rule’ is one of the best tips I have learned. The rule basically creates a guideline that when you see someone that you want to meet or introduce yourself to, don’t give yourself more than 5 seconds before you walk up and shake their hand. This will help you avoid that little voice in your head that can quickly talk you out of greeting whoever it is that you want to meet. Be ready with a polite greeting and a nice opening question.
- “Hi I’m Patrick, that was a great talk you just lead. XXX really made a lot of sense to me.”
- “Hi I’m Patrick, what did you think of that speaker’s topic?”
It’s easy once you think about it…but the key is to not think about it. I promise, you will begin to build relationships and grow your network just by following this step alone.
Even though my days in the dealership are filled with conversations and interactions, I consider myself an introvert; especially when I am alone in large crowds of people. I can be pretty shy if I allow it, and this rule helps me to combat that behavior.
Almost every conference has an app that you can download and register through ahead of time. It will include the entire schedule for the event, the speakers bio’s, and even other attendees. It is extremely important to go in with a plan for each day, because often times, there is not much time in between sessions for making a decision or researching your next step. You will not want to miss out on any information while you are listening to a speaker because you are trying to figure out where you want to go next.
I try to map out the individual sessions I want to attend ahead of time. From there, I’ll review the speakers and other attendees and put together a “short list” of the names of people I definitely want to meet. These are people I want to connect with so that after the conference is over, we can keep in touch, compare notes and outcomes.
Write Things Down & Take Notes
I am a bad note taker – just ask Courtney. I have forced myself to get better at this over time because I have learned there is so much information that is thrown at you at a conference, often times by the end of the 2nd day it is hard to remember what happened on day 1.
I try to collect the outlines or slides from each presenter because there are always great stats or facts in the presentation. That way I don’t have to write them down. What I do write down are the main action items I will want to review later and share with my co-workers when I get home. I have found that if I write down the action steps and then compare that to the slides I get from the presenter I am better prepared for the plans I want to put in place when I get home.
An Extra Tip: Review your notes at the end of the day and write them out again in a more concise fashion. This will be a better take away and will help you fill in the blanks you might have missed while it is still fresh in your mind.
Document Your Thoughts
In addition to the notes you take in the sessions, I have noticed that when I am outside of the dealership it is easier to brainstorm about new ideas I want to try or implement when I return to the office. I am not sure why this happens exactly, but I think it is because I can remove myself from the main scene of the dealership and allow my thoughts to flow. I am still focused on work, but because I am removed from the normal hustle, it’s during this time that I have been able to come up with some of my most innovative ideas while I am away at conferences.
So the best thing I can recommend here is to document what you are thinking about! You never know if the idea will come back again later and it might be a really good one.
Eat and Drink Appropriately
It is easy to lose track of time when you are bouncing around from session to session at a large event. Make sure you are eating appropriately and getting plenty of water. It sounds pretty fundamental, but you will be surprised how easy it is to either forget to eat all together or maybe even eat too much. In either case, you will be ill equipped for a major brain dump of new information. I always carry a water bottle that I try to keep filled throughout the day to stay hydrated, and I take advantage of the snacks that are provided throughout the day.
One last note – Be careful of the amount of adult beverages you consume at the evening events. It is easy to overindulge and then pay the price later. Remember, it is ok to be social and have fun…but you are there to work and represent your company in the end.
A former supervisor shared a quote with me a while back that has always stuck with me:
“Rarely is a reputation made for someone at a large event, but many reputations have been ruined.”
What About You?
What events are on your calendar for the upcoming year? Leave a comment below and let’s connect!