Today’s post is brought to us by Meghan Ely of OFD Consulting, and comes at a perfect time for us as we head to Wedding MBA next week! We hope to see you there too, and will let Meghan tell you how to prepare in the meantime:
Whether you’ve been to your fair share of conferences or this is your first time taking in a local workshop, educational events can be a great way to meet new people and expand your industry knowledge. With that said, attending events can be quite the investment in both time and money, so it’s essential that you are making the most of the ones that you do choose to attend.
MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE
Start out by setting your goals – what do you hope to get out of this event? Are you looking to make new connections and build your network or are you going for the education side of things? Your goals will help you decide on the event that is best suited for your needs. For example, if you want to get more involved in your area market, a local workshop may be just the fit for you, whereas a national conference would be better for someone who wants to build their brand recognition in different regions.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
Once you know where you’re headed, research is what will help you take full advantage of everything the event has to offer. Get a good idea of the educational topics that are being covered and how you can best schedule your time there. Take a look at those who are speaking on the topics – is there anyone that you’d love to hear? Make them a priority! Remember: topics are certainly important, but the quality of the information derives from the expertise of the speaker.
In addition to the event’s components itself, put out your feelers and get an idea of who else will be there. Take a look at recaps from past events to see if you can figure out the make-up of attendees and determine if it’s the right group of people for you. Chances are you’ll walk away from the event with some extra connections, so do what you can to ensure that they’re valuable!
When headed to an event, I follow my own rule of threes: show up early, bring water and wear good shoes. If you truly want to take in as much as possible, you want to ensure that you’re comfortable and engaged. That’s not so easy when your feet are protesting your cute heels or you have to sneak into the back of a session because you’re late.
On the same note, be sure to bring a pad of paper and a pen for taking notes, as well as your business cards. I’d be lying if I said I’ve never forgotten my business cards at a major national conference, but they really are quite important when confronted with new faces around every corner.
MAKE IT ACTIONABLE
This is the biggie – you need to make your takeaways actionable. If you take in a workshop and don’t put those skills or new connections to use afterwards, the experience will have been a waste of time and money. While at the event, keep any new business cards in one spot so you can batch the follow up. Once you’re home, set aside time to reach out to all of the people you met and review all of your notes from your time there. Reflect on the experience and what you’ve learned so that you can implement it into your work.
If a certain educational event has caught your eye, do your research to see if it’s a fit. If you like what you see, find a way to make it out. In addition to being a great investment for business development, they can also be quite fun – so pack your bags and get educated!
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.