Intellectual property conferences are exciting opportunities for deepening engagement with the field through fascinating sessions and great networking opportunities. For many, these IP conferences also come with the excitement of social events, (free) food, and travel.
At the same time, mazelike event halls, encyclopedia-sized program books, and massive crowds can be overwhelming, especially for first-time attendees. Cut out the anxiety and make the most of your conference experience with the tips below.
Study the Program Beforehand
Once the conference starts, you may find yourself rushing between sessions and meetings with little time between. You won’t have time during the conference to study the large tome describing all the different events and available sessions, but it is most likely available digitally before the event starts. Read the program beforehand so you will know exactly what programming is available. This will save you time during the event, and prevent you from accidentally walking into a session you have no interest in.
By reading the program ahead of time, you will also be better prepared to make the most out of your sessions.
Know the Floorplan
Whether included in the program, on the conference’s website or requiring a little research, you should know the floorplan of the conference ahead of time. There are quite a few conference venues that are not nearly as accessible as one might imagine; if you know the floorplan beforehand you’ll at least be able to find the closest bathroom after a coffee meeting, and of course not get lost on your way to sessions.
The conference sessions are important, but you’re also there to make and strengthen connections. Whether over coffee, dinner or at an exhibition booth, plan ahead and schedule your meetings beforehand. Besides helping with time management, this will also ensure that the person you want to meet is available, and can help you come to the meeting prepared.
Also, when you suggest scheduling the meeting beforehand you have the power to affect conditions in your favor. If you want a formal meeting, you can set it in a meeting room, but if you’re more comfortable with coffee or lunch you can do this.
Get the Most from Sessions
Study the Content
If you followed the above suggestion of reading the program, you know what is going to be presented and what will interest you the most, but how much do you know about the content? If you are completely unfamiliar with the subject matter and the presenter, you should take a few minutes to research them. Familiarizing yourself with this material will allow you to be more present during it, and can help you prepare some questions.
Just as you may want some notes before the session, you will want to take notes during the session. Don’t go overboard, but if there is something you want to stick with you later, be sure it is written down. This will also help with asking questions or even sharing your thoughts with the presenter at the end of the session.
Leave Time to Hang Around
You may be tempted to duck out the door immediately after the session is over, but avoid doing so and stick around for a few minutes. This could be an excellent opportunity to approach the speaker, usually a well-respected expert in the field of intellectual property, and connect with them. Share your thoughts without being critical or ask a question and make an important connection.
Even if you are unable to speak with the presenter, sticking around could help you network with others who shared your interest in that session.
Know What to Say
Continuing along with our message of “be prepared,” know what you are going to say before you even start speaking to people. You will need to have an elevator pitch ready, and you should also have a few great conversation starters prepared. Conversation starters should be open-ended questions that are not your standard weather-related question.
– What brought you here?
– What other speakers do you recommend on this topic?
– What made you attend this session?
– Are you doing anything exciting outside the conference while here? (This is a great lead up to inviting, or being invited to a company event!)
Remember to have answers to these questions yourself, they may turn them around on you!
Stay at the Hotel
If possible, the best hotel to stay in during a conference is the hotel it is being hosted in. If the conference itself isn’t being hosted in a hotel, there are likely hotels associated with the conference where other attendees will be staying. Many of the after-hours receptions, cocktail parties, and dinners will be occurring near the venue, so being close-at-hand will make travel quicker. You also never know who you will meet while hanging around the hotel.
There may be plenty of parties and free time at the hotel bar, and being away from the office may leave you feeling like you are on vacation. You should enjoy yourself, and have fun with the connections you are making, but you also need to remember that, in the end, you are at work. Do not let yourself go so much that you might embarrass yourself and your company. You want a reputation as a trustworthy professional, not a wild party animal.
Don’t Forget Existing Relationships
It may be tempting to get out there and collect as many business cards as you can and to spread your name far and wide among conference attendees, but do not neglect your existing relationships. The conference is the opportunity to strengthen those relationships further. Invite those contacts to less formal fun events, like a dinner or party, and try to form a friendship that will strengthen your business relationship.
Embrace Social Media
Use the Hashtag
Most conferences today use hashtags on social media, allowing participants to interact with one another online. When you use a hashtag like #TPCTN2019 (a fake hashtag… for now) you are joining a conversation with everyone else using #TPCTN2019. This will help you connect with others, and draw attention to your social media accounts.
Connect on LinkedIn
Download the LinkedIn app on your phone before the conference, and make sure that you are connecting with everyone you speak with. This will help ensure that you aren’t forgotten after the convention and gives you an easy and quick way to send that person a note letting them know how great it was to meet them.
Post photos of yourself enjoying the convention and tag the people you are with. Make sure a few of those photos are fun. Use the time you are there to generate content that you can share on social media. It’s great for your own marketing, and when you return next year, you may find people looking to connect with you due to your content.