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Written by Jane Serra on Dec 5

Marketing conferences can be inspiring — and overwhelming. These conference tips will help ensure you’re making the most of your time.

Here, you’ll find:

  • Conference tips for networking
  • Strategies for effective note-taking
  • Ways to avoid conference burnout
  • How to turn inspiration into action post-event

Whether your beat is paid search, social media, SEO, content writing, or anything in between, there’s a marketing conference for you. The ROI of attending a conference can be huge, both for yourself and for your company.

But once you’ve hit “register” and scored your ticket, there’s more to be done to be sure you’ll get the most you can out of the event. From mapping out goals to mindful networking, these conference tips will help make your next conference work for you. (Oh, and don’t forget your business cards!)

HawkSEM: How to Make the Most of a Marketing Conference

Consider connecting with fellow attendees or speakers beforehand via LinkedIn or the event’s Facebook page. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Make a pre-event plan

Leading up to the conference, it’s a good idea to come up with a few goals you have in mind. Jotting these goals down can help you feel more organized and purposeful. And they’ll be especially useful once the chaos of running from session to workshop to happy hour is underway.

You can ask yourself questions like:

  • What do you want to walk away with?
  • What current problems or projects do you want help tackling?
  • Who would you most like to meet?

You can even consider connecting with fellow attendees or speakers beforehand via LinkedIn or the event’s Facebook page. That way you can start networking and potentially set up some valuable coffee or dinner plans.

2. Get to sessions early

It might seem like a small thing, but trying to get to sessions early can be a game-changer during the busy conference rush. While it depends on things like your session schedule and the layout of the venue, it’s a good idea to get to each session about 10-15 minutes ahead of start time if you can.

This way, you don’t feel rushed, you can snag a good seat, and you have time to get organized and even check your emails before it starts. This is also a great opportunity to chat and network with people sitting around you — much less awkward than walking up to someone in a large room.

If you’re stumped on conversation starters, you can ask someone about their job role, current interests, or a project they’ve been dealing with. Who knows — you may be able to offer each other some valuable advice!

HawkSEM: How to Make the Most of a Marketing Conference

Consider giving yourself a meet-and-greet goal — like getting three business cards per day. (Image via Unsplash)

3. Give yourself a meet-and-greet goal

The idea of networking can be exciting at best, and overwhelming (or even dreadful) at worst. But while the intimidation factor is natural, networking can be one of the most beneficial things you do at a marketing conference.

Particularly if you’re attending a conference with coworkers, it can be easy to stick with them and not strike up convos with anyone new. Consider giving yourself a meet-and-greet goal, like getting three business cards per day.

Between vendors, seat neighbors, and those waiting in the lunch line with you, you should be able to crush your goal and make potentially valuable connections in the process.

4. Make time to check out the vendors

Speaking of vendors, conferences are the perfect opportunity to check out the latest and greatest offerings in your industry. Take some time between sessions or after lunch to browse around the vendor booth area and chat up any brand reps that pique your interest.

You may end up meeting someone who can help solve a problem you’ve been working on at your company or offer a time-saving tool. Some booths may even have special discounts, deals, or prizes as well. Don’t feel intimidated — they’re just people there to make connections, too.

5. Don’t forget to take breaks

With all the hustle and bustle surrounding live events, even two days of sessions can leave you feeling burned out. Taking breaks will help you recharge and feel refreshed so you can continue making the most of your event.

If you can’t make it back to where you’re staying in between sessions, consider posting up in a quiet corner and answering a few work emails, or sitting outside or next to a sunny window during lunch.

Remember: you don’t need to attend every single session you sign up for. If you need to rest, you can usually reach out to the company behind the conference later to get the presentation slides or contact info for the speaker.

HawkSEM: How to Make the Most of a Marketing Conference

Taking notes on sessions will ensure you leave with takeaways and insights. (Image via Unsplash)

6. Be prepared to take notes

Research shows that note-taking can improve information retention, particularly when it comes to understanding concepts. But whether you opt for a laptop, an app like OneNote, or a pen and pad, taking notes on sessions will ensure you leave with valuable takeaways and insights.

Don’t want the action items or juicy ideas to get buried? Bold them or add an asterisk so you can hit ctrl+F and find them easily. (If you’re going old-school, you can underline or highlight the big takeaways.)

If you take phone photos of particularly relevant slides or URLs during sessions, it’s wise to make a note of it. This way, you’ll know the photo’s context later, and you won’t have to wrack your brain trying to remember which session the photo is from.

7. Be present while networking

Which person sounds more like someone you want to talk to at an event: Someone smiling and looking around, or something with their eyes down and fingers glued to their phone?

During a networking session, hit that meet-and-greet goal mentioned above by temporarily putting your phone away and hanging out by the bar or food table. You’ll have folks consistently walking over to where you are, which makes striking up conversations a breeze.

8. Share top conference tips with your team

It’s common to be filled with inspiration and ideas from an event, then return to work and fall back into old habits and tasks.

Don’t let your time — and the ticket price — go to waste! Creating a list of action items from your conference notes will help ensure you put those new ideas and tactics into place.

Another way to hold yourself accountable is by offering to do a quick presentation for your team to discuss the conference tips and highlights you gleaned. Explain what you learned, along with your plan for how the business can put these ideas into practice. (Bonus points if you include a timeline to better prioritize these new goals.)

HawkSEM: How to Make the Most of a Marketing Conference

Creating a list of action items from your conference notes will help ensure you put those new ideas and tactics into place. (Image via Unsplash)

The takeaway

Marketing conferences are a great way to learn new things about your industry while getting you outside of your comfort zone and normal routine.

Whether you’re a seasoned attendee or plan to hit up your first conference in the coming months, these conference tips can help you feel confident and ready to make the most of it.

Jane Serra

Jane Serra

Jane Serra is the VP of Marketing at HawkSEM. She's an accomplished marketing executive with more than 12 years of experience leading digital marketing teams across demand generation, branding, events, content, and communications. When she's not strategizing, networking, and honing her craft, she enjoys traveling and scrolling Yelp for new restaurants to try.

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