Focus, Jot, Debrief and Smile Wide: Taking Full Advantage of Your In-Person Events

Editors, marketers, publishers, writers and more will be descending upon Washington, D.C., next week for our inaugural AMPLIFY 2022 Content & Marketing Summit. (See the agenda here.) For the majority, I would guess that it will be their first time at an in-person event in almost three years. Here’s a primer on getting the most out of your experience.

Yesterday I wrote about a campaign called How to PTA. Today’s article could probably be called How to Conference. Of course, it will be like riding a bike—once you start engaging, it will feel comfortable again—but there’s so much more that we can get out of these events if we come with a little preparation.

Another purpose of this column is for you to borrow these tips for your own event audience. The fall will be jam-packed with in-person events, so this can be a great refresher/primer course for your attendees. (It will be posted on the blog for Friday’s Week in Review.)

It is a DISTINCT PLEASURE for me to write: Here are 9 tips to get the most out of the events you will attend IN PERSON this year (and hopefully next week):

Jot down notes and information. Yes, I mean in longhand. When you get a business card, write down what made you ask for the card on the back. I can recall times when I empty my pockets after a long day at a conference, see a bunch of business cards, and don’t quite remember what I was going to check on or follow up about. Many designers are now leaving business cards blank on one side just for that reason. Of course, writing Notes on your phone also works.

Focus your attention on possible outcomes. “Many people think of networking as showing up, randomly interacting, and hoping something good will happen,” wrote Jeff Korhan, author of Built-In Social: Essential Social Marketing Practices for Every Small Business. “You have to be crystal clear about what you want so you can communicate it to others and recognize it when you see or hear it.”

Increase the probability of favorable outcomes. Korhan scripts his daily schedule for meetings, breakfast, exercise and all. For in-person events, he likes to show up a bit early; “it’s a great time to make invaluable connections,” he writes. “Simply put: Smart networkers always plan for serendipity at live events.” I love this having written a column recently titled, ‘You Want to Leave Room for Magic’; How to Plan for Serendipitous Outcomes.”

Listen up. “It’s easy to get distracted and think about what you’re going to say after the person you’re talking to finishes their point,” wrote blogger Nathalie Lussier. “Don’t let your mind take over! Instead, focus on what the people you’re with are saying and chime in without pre-rehearsing what you’re going to say in your head. I promise it will come out just as smart, but you’ll have the added benefit of knowing exactly what people are saying, and giving them your full undivided attention. People will notice!”

Debrief throughout the event. This is important. You will definitely experience information overload at AMPLIFY (and other events) so take a few minutes each evening to digest what you have learned and the people you have met. Call it “doing your homework before going home.” Take notes—about your interactions as well as from the sessions.

Articulate what your company has had success with. My favorite question in interviews these days is, Tell me something you’ve done recently that’s been successful. Everyone is looking for ways to grow their organization. So if you can clearly articulate what you are doing well, others will do the same for you. And that will facilitate a better discussion.

Do research about those you may want to connect with. Knowing something specific about other organizations always makes for interesting conversation. The best opportunities are often squandered because someone is not ready. Here is the link for the organizations coming to AMPLIFY 2022. You can also look at the EXCEL finalists in a specific category—maybe podcasts, website design—so that when you see a person from there you can ask questions.

Be determined to meet people you don’t know. Saying hi to old friends will certainly be more important this year—we’re all concerned about our friends’ and colleagues’ mental and physical health after these last two-plus years. And that’s certainly part of what makes a conference great. But you want new connections too—so much has changed out there. Perhaps it’s a younger person who looks a little isolated. These days, we can learn as much from them as they can from us. Or it’s someone who may not have a clique or posse to turn to.

Smile and talk to people. We’ve all kind of mastered the mask-smile these days—has to be a bit wider than it used to be. Raised eyebrows go a longer way now and can be more positive than it used to be. My experience so far in person has been that the joy comes back pretty quickly. We share so many more commonalities now about our home offices, kids, pets, Zoom backgrounds, etc. “Have you really read all those books behind you, won all those awards, have that beautiful garden?”

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