As the world returns to gathering together to learn, I thought it would be a good time to tackle how to make the most out of the experience, whether it’s a multi-day conference or a local networking session.

1. Create your event attendance strategy, from learning to networking

You must make events intentional. Spend some time before the event looking at the sessions, speakers, and activities. Then prioritize the ones that will best help you meet your content business goals, solve your problems, or build your community.

Before attending a professional event, prioritize the speakers and activities that will help you meet your goals, says @BrianWPiper. #Networking #ContentBusiness Click To Tweet

Think about what information you want to get from each session, which speakers would be the most beneficial for you to meet, and what other attendee connections could be useful.

Write down your goals for the event. Determine what knowledge you want to return with, what questions you want to get answered, and what contacts you want to make.

2. Prepare before the event

Research the speakers for the sessions you are planning to attend. Follow them on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or whatever social platforms they’re on. Research their content and offerings, read their books, listen to podcasts and interviews they’ve done. Start to engage with them. Like and comment on their posts and videos, tag them in your posts where appropriate. 

Come up with three to five questions for each session and speaker. If your questions aren’t answered during the presentation, make sure you’re ready to ask a well-formed question that addresses your needs. Plus, there’s no better way to start forming a connection with a speaker than to ask them an intelligent question in person. 

If there’s an app for the event, look for opportunities to connect with other attendees. Some apps will allow you to search attendees by company, industry, or interest. Come up with a list of other attendees you want to reach out to.

In-person events bring #networking opportunities with your fellow attendees. Make a point to get together, says @BrianWPiper. #CreatorEconomy #ContentEntrepreneur Click To Tweet

Look for opportunities during lunches, breaks, or networking times to connect with other attendees. If you’re not good at small talk, come up with some standard go-to questions when you’re sitting down with other people: “What’s your favorite session so far?” “Have you picked up any useful information that you can start applying as soon as you get back home?”

3. Revisit your original strategy during the event

At a multi-day event, review your goals and evaluate your progress at the beginning and end of each day. Remind yourself of what you’re doing there, and try to make each session, interaction, or event a step in the right direction.

Keep networking

Reach out to other participants (through the event app or in-person) during the event and suggest a meetup during lunch or at a break time. Take photos and post on social during the event and sessions and be sure to tag the speaker and use the event hashtag.

When you get back to your room at the end of the day, go through the contacts made that day, connect on LinkedIn, and be sure to send a personal note to remind them of the conversation you had or to thank them for the knowledge they shared.

At the end of an event, invite new contacts to connect on @LinkedIn and send a personal note reminding them of your conversation, says @BrianWPiper. #CreatorEconomy #Networking Click To Tweet

4. Don’t be an event hermit 

If there are networking activities or meetups in the evening, attend them. Force yourself to network. Go up to new people and introduce yourself. Most conferences have badges for attendees that can help you connect with people by letting you know where they work or in what capacity they’re attending the event (speaker, first-timer, etc.)

5. Follow up after the event

When the conference is over, your work isn’t done. Put together notes from the events, including who you met, what you learned, what new initiatives you want to start, or what new technologies you want to learn. 

CAVEAT: Don’t wait a week to do this. It’s amazing how quickly you’ll forget the details with so much going on in such a short time. 

Over the next few days, if available, watch the on-demand sessions for presentations you missed. And then take the opportunity to reach out to those presenters.

Take full advantage of the opportunities that IRL events provide and get all the benefits that you can between knowledge building, skill development, and networking.

Apply these skills at the Creator Economy Expo May 2 to 4 in Phoenix. Register today.

Check out what The Tilt’s Pam Pulizzi has to share about the power of in-person events.

About the author

Brian Piper is Director of Content Strategy and Assessment for the University of Rochester Department of Communications. Brian has been doing SEO and content strategy since 1996. He has created online training programs for hundreds of companies including Xerox, Carestream, Kodak, and Volvo. He has spent the last seven years focusing on data analytics, content marketing, and strategy. When he's not creating data visualizations, he teaches wingsuit skydiving and spends time with his wife and six children.