Maximizing Your Time at a Conference

4 tips for getting the most out of industry trade shows

Maximizing Your Time at a ConferenceConferences are an excellent venue to meet industry experts, share and learn best practices from peers, and even encounter potential partners. However, with so much activity packed into just a few short days, they can also seem overwhelming. To fully maximize your limited time at a conference, you should do your homework, prioritize your activities, consider speaking engagements and include your PR team.

Do Your Homework

Not all conferences are alike, so you should begin your pre-show prep by learning the individual nuances and differentiators of the one you’re attending. It might even be beneficial to reach out to a colleague or friend who has attended that tradeshow in the past to hear their insight and advice.

Before your departure, find out what other credit unions, vendors and even media will be attending. Also, make sure you’re familiar with the venue’s layout. Your schedule will likely be chaotic from the moment you arrive, so it’s a good idea to have at least a general ‘lay of the land’ before you set foot on the conference location.

Prioritize Your Activities

While there is a large amount of pertinent information you can glean from conferences, you must consider your top priorities when mapping out a schedule. It is very likely that two sessions you want to attend will be happening concurrently. In this case, you must have a firm grasp on which would bring the most value back to your credit union.

There will also be numerous people you want to meet with, but because of the limited free time at these events, you should rank your top five desired meetings. Also keep in mind that just because time may not allow a formalized sit-down with someone, it doesn’t mean you can’t introduce yourself and exchange contact information to speak at a later date.

Consider Speaking Engagements

Most conferences have several opportunities for you or someone in your organization to give a presentation about a thought-provoking and timely industry topic. Before the show, carefully consider if this would be beneficial and strategic for your organization. If so, speaking opportunities may be something you want to inquire further about for the future. This is something you should aim to figure out early, as applications are typically due many months before the event. Which brings us to the next point: contacting your PR team.

Loop in Your PR team

While industry events are a good place to network and make connections with other credit union professionals, they’re also ideal for meeting with the media. Reporters and editors are so bombarded with news via email and social media, actually having face time with these individuals is invaluable. If you let your PR team know what conferences you’re attending ahead of time, they can reach out to these reporters and gauge their interest and availability for scheduling onsite meetings.

If your PR team is able to coordinate such interviews, it is wise to have some new news to share with the reporters, like a recent press release or company announcement that has not yet been distributed. Reporters will often not only want to know what you’ve done in the past, but will also want an inside scoop on your latest activities.

Conferences are advantageous events for many reasons, from making valuable connections to having face time with key media contacts. While there’s a lot going on during these shows, you can make the most of your time and ensure smooth sailing by properly preparing, prioritizing and communicating with your PR team.

Amber Estes works for William Mills Agency, the nation’s largest independent public relations firm focusing exclusively on the financial services and technology industries. The agency can be followed on TwitterFacebook, LinkedIn, or its blog.

CUES’ Credit Union Management’s online-only “PR Insight” column runs the first Thursday of every month.

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