5 Strategies to Increase Your Productivity at Conferences

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Spring has arrived in the U.S. and much like the flowers and trees, the number of events and conferences have begun to grow on our calendars. The first big event? Next week’s TrailheaDX conference on March 28 & 29! It’s a perfect opportunity for you as a Salesforce Admin, Developer, or Business User to meet with others in our Ohana and learn. But, as we all know, events can be overwhelming and sometimes exhausting-even without any added pressure of showing the ROI to our boss! To ensure you get the most value out of an amazing conference experience, let’s walk through 5 strategies I have for being productive at events.

1. Set a S.M.A.R.T Goal

Peter Drucker is often quoted as saying, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” What he means is: if you don’t set a goal how will you define success? S.M.A.R.T. goals are- Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. To touch on all of these points, I like to write my goals for an event in a sentence. For example: my S.M.A.R.T. goal for TrailheaDX is, “at TrailheaDX I’m going to meet with five Salesforce Admins, hear their stories, exchange business cards, and help them learn with Trailhead.”

This goal is specific because I’m not trying to meet ALL the Admins at TrailheaDX. It’s measurable, achievable, and realistic with only five Salesforce Admins, whereas 500 is still measurable, but it’s hardly achievable or realistic. It’s also very timely— TrailheaDX is a time-bound event.

Ready to write your smart goal? Try it now!

2. Do Your Homework

Now that we have our goal, we should be feeling pretty good about ourselves. This is when the work begins. Simply showing up to an event is not enough to make your goals a reality. We need to do the right prep work in advance.

First things first: get an understanding of the layout and content at the event. As you look at content around an event try to be cognizant of location- the last thing you want to do is spend a ton of time racing from one location to another. Save energy and time by trying to keep content and events grouped together, if at all possible.

Next, check to see if content is repeated. Many events will have sessions or topics that are repeated. This frees up time on your calendar for options. And, speaking of options, always have a ‘plan B’ for sessions or events. At many events space fills up quickly, so it’s always good to have a back up at the ready.

3. Come Equipped

Getting ready for an event is more than just choosing your sessions, packing your bag, or deciding what you will take with you on the day of the event (although, I’ll cover that later). It’s also about your mental equipment— and by that, I mean how you equip yourself to have productive conversations.

First thing to prepare: your elevator pitch.
Imagine this: the keynote just finished and as you are preparing to leave the room one of the keynote speakers walks by and says “hello.” Are you prepared to introduce yourself? Can you say where you work, what you do, and why you are there? If not, you need to practice you elevator pitch. Don’t miss an opportunity by not having your information top of mind, and ready to go.

Second, think about what you want to ask the speakers. Almost every event I attend publishes their speakers’ topics and sessions. So before you attend a session, look up the speaker’s info and prepare any questions you have in advance. Again, don’t miss an opportunity because you didn’t prepare!

Finally, let’s talk about physical items you can bring. Generally at an event I like to travel as light as possible. Worrying about where to drop my bag, or deal with carrying one in a crowd only adds to any pre-event anxiety I might feel. Thinking ahead about what you need and don’t need on-site is key. Then you can focus on learning, networking, and having fun— and not about where all your stuff is.

My must-carry items:

  • phone
  • phone charger
  • business cards
  • hand sanitizer
  • mints

4. Be Realistic

On average, about how far do you walk a day? Depending on the day, I walk anywhere from 8,000-10,000 steps. Which means, when I attend events I’m usually worn out after the same number of steps, if not more! Unfortunately, events won’t suddenly turn you into a superhero who can walk 35,000 steps in a day (even if we wish they could). Remember to take the time to check in with yourself at an event. If you are worn out, or feel you are pushing too hard, dial it back a couple notches. Be realistic with yourself about how much you can do. And of course, don’t forget to hydrate and eat! It’s easy to overpack your schedule with too many things and forget about taking care of yourself.

5. Be Reflective

Let me tell you a true story.

Last January I was at a big event and I had just rushed from a few activities- one of which I missed. I was feeling super bummed out. So, I took a moment to be reflective. I just stopped. Stood off to the side and enjoyed the fact I was at the event. Now, as fate would have it a camera crew walked by and with them a host of one of the TV shows I watch. So I took that opportunity to introduce myself and ask for a selfie. It became a highlight of the event for me. Had I not taken the time before the event to get my elevator pitch ready and be reflective, it may never have happened.

From sessions, to keynotes, to demos, and interactive features there can be a lot going on at an event. Take a moment to just reflect on the fact that you are there. Stop for a moment, look around, and take it all in.

Now go forth and be your productive self this year! And I hope to see you at an event soon!

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