Marketing Industry Conferences – How to Have the Best Time Ever

From SXSW to the annual PRSA international conference, there are an endless number of industry events to attend in the marketing field.

I attended my first multi-day industry event for social media marketing in 2018. From choosing which workshops to attend to learning how to network in a room full of strangers, I’ll admit to feeling a little overwhelmed by the whole experience at that time.

As I prepare to head out to Social Media Marketing World 2020, I feel like I’ve got some great experience under my belt for navigating these conferences. Here is what you need to know before attending your first multi-day conference.

Research the Tracks

Many marketing industry conferences offer a variety of tracks from which you can choose the classes or workshops you will attend. Selecting classes is easier at smaller events, but large-scale conferences often offer dozens of great classes to choose from, which can make the decision process a little more involved.

I recommend researching the class themes and, more importantly, speakers in advance. Waiting until the day of the conference to see what topic strikes your fancy is a great way to find yourself wandering around and wasting precious time. Find out which speakers have good social media followings and see if the things they post resonate with you. If there are multiple classes at any given time, choose your number one and then your number two options, in case the first one is full.

Practice Networking

I normally have the gift for gab, always being the one to strike up conversations with strangers in elevators, in the line at the grocery store or sitting next to someone on airplanes. But chatting with people at networking events feels forced and disingenuous to me, making it hard to do it in a natural and effective way.

After I crashed and burned in this arena at my first conference, I went to our resident networking expert here at BIG YAM – VP of New Business Ryan Smeets – and asked him for some pointers on the art of networking at events. While you really should read Ryan’s whole article, here are some top-level pointers:

  • Prep Time: If you want to get together with speakers at conferences, make sure to reach out to them in advance to get on their calendars
  • During the Event: Look for similarities with the people you are meeting – region, line of work, where they went to school – so you can build a rapport
  • After the Event: After you meet people at an industry event, follow up immediately, preferably with a picture that will jog their memory

Plan Out Your Schedule … With Buffers

Many multi-day events go from before the sun rises until long after it goes to bed. If you can go all day long and multiple days without any sleep, more power to you! If you’re like me, however, it can be exhausting trying to do all the things, especially when you’re operating at 200 percent of your normal energy level.

It’s okay to pace yourself, to schedule in small breaks to do something mindless and to choose either the early morning power networking yoga or the late-evening cocktail mixer. Push yourself out of your comfort zone, but don’t kill yourself either.

Check out some other great articles from our blog – The Beacon – for more great industry insights.