Conference Tips for Small Business Owners

People On A Conference

For small business owners, business conferences can be both a blessing and a curse. They give you the opportunity to develop new skills and learn strategies.  And they also provide you with the chance to meet new people and expand your business network.

Unfortunately, they also pull you away from your business and they cost money.  So it’s important that you understand the return on investment for any business conference you are thinking to attend.

Here are some tips to help you come away from your next business conference feeling motivated and energized, rather than overwhelmed and exhausted.

1. Plan Your Sessions

Almost all conferences announce their schedule, including keynote speakers, workshops, daily sessions, and networking events, ahead of time. Not every keynote speaker and workshop will be relevant to you and your business, so to save yourself from wasting time in a session you don’t care about, make a note of the sessions and events that most interest you. If an event requires registration, make sure you register ahead of time so you’re not disappointed when you get to the venue.

2. Be Prepared

With so many people at one event, you are sure to run into someone who can offer you a business opportunity. It could be a potential client, a mentor, or someone who provides services you might need. Take enough business cards with you so the people you meet can contact you after the conference is over.  But don’t just throw them at people. Give them to people you genuinely want to connect with. Or better yet, connect on Linkedin at the event and avoid the business card shuffle all together.

3. Take Time for You

It can be easy at a conference to spend your days in sessions, your evenings networking, and your free moments checking emails and dealing with work issues. That will leave you overwhelmed, frustrated and tired, and you won’t get as much out of the conference. Make sure you get a full night’s sleep, so you are rested and alert for the next day’s events. I have been known to head to drinks, have one or two, then skive off back to my room to relax. Sometimes you just have to avoid the FOMO (fear of missing out) and do what works for you.

Even better, plan breaks into your day. Just because you are at a conference doesn’t mean you have to attend every event. Trying to take everything in can backfire because you’ll be so tired you won’t get anything out of the later sessions. Don’t be afraid to be selective about the events you attend.

4. Pick an Action Step After the Conference

It’s tempting to go to a conference and come away with a ton of information and skills that you want to use right away. You feel energized by what you’ve learned and you want to implement it all as soon as possible.  You have copious pages of notes – often that you will never read again as you don’t have time. To avoid the overwhelm or worse, inaction, pick one or two things that were the most relevant to your business and that you feel you can implement without too many obstacles.  That is your focus, nothing else right now.

Conferences are part of life (well they are for accountants anyway).  Generally it is great to remove myself from the day to day of running my business and catch up with peers.  Those peers provide insight, information, guidance, a different perspective and so much more.  What I can learn and take away from the speakers and exhibitors is really the icing on the cake.

But for me to come home from a business conference motivated and inspired, I need to do it my way.  Which is plenty of rest, not too much booze and a shit load of planning in advance so I don’t waste my time.

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