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With Ad:tech having just happened in San Francisco last week and Internet World coming up in London later this week, I was thinking about how many conferences I have been to and how someone starting out at their first conference could best utilize their time.
Next time you are going to an industry conference, here are some approaches to try out:

Expo Hall: At ad:tech there was an expo hall full of thousands of people who knew plenty about web design, email marketing, affiliate program management and Ecommerce. In my everyday life I feel lucky to talk with someone else who has some idea of what I do, and here I was with a room full of people. What to do first?

I see a lot of first time conference people look for booths of companies that do what they do. That can help to scope out your competition, but chances are you won’t be working with your competition. A great way to use your time in an Expo Hall is to go to the booths of companies you have never heard of who do things you don’t do. If you do Ecommerce, visit the web design companies. If you are a branding person, visit the digital marketing or affiliate management program booths. Ask questions about what they do and use it as a chance to make a connection, exchange business cards and brainstorm ways that you can work together in the future.

Speakers: At ad:tech there were some powerful speakers from some of the top websites and web companies. The crowds were big for the keynotes and there were plenty of people at the panel discussions. Everything from Ecommerce to email marketing, digital marketing to affiliate program management. It never fails- you listen to a great speaker or watch a great panel discussion and right afterward about 50 people try to go and grab a second with the person they liked. Think about it- this person just talked for a long time and possibly just spent a lot of time answering questions about digital marketing, ecommerce, email marketing or affiliate program management or whatever they are into. Now is not the best time for you to try out that new theory or ask that question you want a deep answer to. Now IS the best time for you approach and say, “I loved what you had to say. Here is my card, how can I contact you tomorrow?” Save the real business for the follow-up.

After the Conference: I can’t emphasize this enough. There are always meeting spots and gatherings after any conference. At this point it doesn’t much matter if you are in web design, digital marketing, Ecommerce or managing an email marketing campaign for an affiliate program. This is the great part about the conferences- meeting new people and connecting with them on a level beyond business. When you go home from a conference all the information, talks and business cards tend to stick together as part of “The Conference,” no matter how insightful the moment was about web design, digital marketing, Ecommerce or that stellar affiliate marketing program. The people you met and shared a laugh with you remember. And they will remember you.