There’s no such thing as over planning if you’re putting on a convention. Every second of the event gets micromanaged. And rightly so. The stakes are high. You’re the host of an event drawing thousands of people who might be paying many thousands of dollars to attend.

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. The conference planners have gone through all the trouble to make sure you’ll consider it to be a successful return on your investment. Do the same thing. There’s a lot in it for you.

Hang With The Right People

Exhibitors get the list if they ask for it. They know who’s attending a convention. Do some homework and find out who’ll be there with you. Plan ahead, even if it’s only generally.

Who are the top 3 people you’d like to either reconnect with or meet for the first time? Yes, this is a time for spending time with professional connections – but growing your network is where opportunity lies. Unless your objective is to re-ignite a business connection, weigh your interactions in favor of new connections.

Keep An Open Mind To New Ideas

If you attended some of the top technology conventions during the late 90s, you might have come across the exhibit for a company using what was then brand new 3D printing technology to create a new kind of orthodontic braces.

It’s a multibillion-dollar industry today. Align Technology, the inventors of Invisalign braces, had a record 4th quarter in 2015 with over $845 million in revenue.

Keep your eye open for new ideas. They may seem improbable. But there are plenty of people who passed on the opportunity of Invisalign who likely remember walking by their convention show booth, wondering who on earth would wear braces made out of a photo-sensitive liquid resin that cures into a hard plastic when exposed to a laser.

Don’t Pass Up The Breakout Sessions!

The schedule for speeches, seminars, and breakout sessions often spans the length of the convention. You’ll want to make strategic choices. These events are where you might find those people on your list to meet.

Consider skipping sessions if there’s a lack of specific information about what’s to be covered. There’s little to be gained from generic sessions that won’t increase your understanding of a topic.

A.B.N. (Always Be Networking)

You’ve already made your list of people to seek out. Don’t make that exclusive. Networking yields the best results when you throw in some wildcards. You never know who you might meet.

Conventions cost money to attend. Be mindful of this investment and keep small talk to a minimum. It’s all about having meaningful conversations with relevant people.

Be Generous With Company Gifts

Brochures and handouts? That’s so pre-Internet. Convention goers expect all that to be available via a link you can text to their smartphone. They still expect and appreciate physical representations of your company. Do you have them?

Branded promotional items keep you and your company top of mind. Keep them flowing if your a booth exhibitor. If you want to sour a new relationship before it begins, adopt the antiquated “one per customer” rule of promotional gifts or samples. The single person you meet might represent a group of decision-makers.

Break Out Of Broadcast Mode

You’ll learn more at the next convention you attend if you listen more than you talk. When it is your turn to say something (unless you’re delivering a speech) be ready with a question that shows you’re paying attention.

Active listening may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s a powerful business acquisition skill. How can you determine if someone is the right match for your product or service if you’re doing all the talking about that product or service?

Stay Flexible

Yoga isn’t required. An open mind is. Most conventions span just a few days. Schedules are rigid, and you want to make the most of your time. Leave a few holes in your calendar, anyway.

Give yourself room, and permission, to follow up on something unexpected. Rigid itineraries have the appearance of strength, but they snap and break more easily than those with wiggle room. You’ll know the right balance when you find it.

It’s Not Over When It’s Over

Convention’s done. You’re back at the office. It’s time to leverage what you’ve learned, and that time is right now. Business opportunities are fresh, and so is the information you’ve obtained.

Act on both. The default mode is to set the convention mind frame aside to put out fires started while you attended the convention. Beware of falling into this rut. You might find yourself having your own Invisalign moment.

Need some help planning what to bring along to your next convention? We’ve been doing that for over 30 years. We know our products and what they can do for you. You should expect that.

You’ll also appreciate our free and useful advice about convention product distribution. Over 3 decades of listening to customers has given us a treasure trove of ideas and advice. It’s free for the taking, and you’re welcome to as much of it as you like.

One per customer, please. Just kidding.