Answer These Questions Before Attending Your Next Business Conference

“The small business event I attended was great, but I still don’t know how to start my business. Can you help me?”

This question is one of the top five requests I read by email each week. It tells me that while entrepreneurial conferences continue to draw huge crowds, too many who attend do so blindly. They enter without an agenda to accomplish their top goals and exit with an action plan for moving forward.

It’s understandable to be excited about being in the company of like-minded thinkers. But before you clear your schedule, pay a hefty conference fee, and make travel plans, you have to know that the effort and cost are worthwhile.

Avoid Wasting Time and Money Without Results

Instead of returning to the office with memories that soon fade, your goal after attending any conference should be to immediately act on what you learned.

I wish I had practiced this mindset before attending my first business conference miles away from my office in a neighboring state.

I read about the event and decided to go. After boarding a train and hailing a taxi, I arrived at the convention center with a printed attendance badge and a pad for note taking. Yet today, I cannot remember one good thing that I learned from that event.

Because I didn’t ask enough questions before I signed up or set proper goals before I attended, my takeaway from the event was mostly a waste of time and money.

Avoid the mistake of poor planning by taking these steps before attending your next business conference.

Ask These Questions Before You Sign Up

Before you sign up for the business conference, research these important questions to make sure the outcome will be worth your investment:

  • What are the seminar topics, and who are the speakers?
  • Which services will benefit my business now and in the future?
  • How will I follow up with people I meet to forge long-term connections?

Determine Your Top Goals for the Business Conference

Your next step is to document the goals you plan to achieve at the event.

Write down the areas within your business that produce the biggest problems you want solved quickly. If the list is long, pick the top 3-5 points as your agenda.

Here are three goals that may be under consideration.

  • Learning the process to outsource administrative services
  • Installation of web analytics and/or dissecting monthly reports
  • Pros and cons of creating an online membership program

Review the Business Conference Agenda

After choosing your top goals, you’re ready to visit the event’s website and review the business conference agenda. This will guide your final decision on whether or not attending the conference is in your best interest.

Too often by default, the event’s agenda becomes your agenda. But in reality, that line of thinking rarely serves your business. This occurs because you read about the program before setting your own goals. It’s time to change that habit so you exit the event satisfied that your time and money were spent wisely.

Carefully compare the agenda with your list of goals. Will at least half of your goals be addressed at the business conference? If so, the event may be a strong match for your needs. Other goals may be supplemented through new entrepreneurial connections and exhibitors who present the types of products and services you seek.

Prepare for the Best Possible Experience

Before you travel to the conference, ask yourself these questions, and make a plan of attack to gain the most benefit possible from your investment:

  • How can I convince the keynote speaker or other presenters to spend a few minutes with me after their presentations?
  • When is the attendee networking event scheduled so I can meet like-minded entrepreneurs for collaborating on projects that serve our markets?
  • Which seminars focus on topics I want to learn right now?
  • Which companies will I visit at the trade show?
  • When will I set aside time, during the event, to review my goals so each is ready to launch quickly after returning to the office?

Attending a conference you later describe as “great” isn’t good enough. You must assess its value before agreeing to appear by asking questions before you sign up, comparing your top goals to the event’s agenda, and creating a game plan to get the most you can out of your business conference experience.

Shirley George Frazier

Shirley George Frazier is recognized worldwide as one of the foremost experts on marketing strategies for small businesses and independent owners who work without employee assistance. In business since 1990, Shirley is president and CEO of Sweet Survival LLC, a consulting firm specializing in business and marketing support.

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