People go to conferences for a variety of reasons: Some go to be inspired while others join to network, play, learn, or to simply have fun. In my experience there are several types of conference goers that I always run in to at every conference:
The Vacationer – These are the leaders who need a break and just book themselves at conferences to simply escape work! Hey, we all need a break. It doesn’t really matter the conference or the location, they’ll be there. I actually know a guy that attended a conference and spent the entire weekend sleeping. He missed most of the sessions and just slept! I asked him why he didn’t attend much of the sessions and he said “I’m on vacation!”
Pros: Escaping work and attending conferences (even in vacation mode) can help ignite your creative mind. Getting out of my routine has helped me immensely in brainstorming ideas for future projects. This may be the key for you too.
Cons: Be careful to not miss out on some amazing content. While touring the city (or getting your sleep on!) is great, you might miss something the conference offers that will help you in your career work.
Tip: Make time for everything. When I attend conferences I want to attend the sessions, have ample time to network with others, see the city, and yes, even strategically schedule some extra nap times in!
The Poser – Unfortunately, there are people who pose as conference goers. They aren’t attending the conference but they capitalize on it. The big conference is in town and you live nearby, so why not network with people who are in town? The sad reality is that some people don’t have a budget to attend conferences and still want to meet up with conference goers. I feel you! While others just take advantage of conferences (they don’t make much profit these days!) and sneak into sessions or private events.
Pros: Getting to meet up with conference goers and feeding off the energy of an event may be helpful to you.
Cons: You could get royally embarrassed if you get caught sneaking into events that you didn’t pay for. Plus, I’m an advocate for conferences and don’t want them to lose more money by people taking advantage of them. Suggestion here – ask the conference coordinators if they have any scholarships. You could also try to win a FREE registration (Note: I’m giving away a FREE ticket to a conference in this post!)
Tip: There are many conferences I want to attend and don’t have the budget for it. Fortunately, I get to attend a number of them because they ask me to speak. I’ve also volunteered for some. Try one of these options: volunteer (email the conference to inquire), ask for a scholarship (sometimes we have not because we ask not!), be a presenter (email to ask if there are opportunities to speak).
The Planner - The organized conference goer is very strategic. Even weeks before the BIG event arrives, they are systematically researching the conference website, tracking blogs, and scheduling meetings to network with others. They mean business!
Pros: You are the most prepared person in the room. You are incredibly efficient with time. You have learned to maximize your conference experience.
Cons: Often times the highlight of my conference experience is a late-night run to grab food with friends that is totally spontaneous. Don’t miss out!
Tip: Do your homework. Find out what you absolutely want to attend, but leave room for the spontaneous times. And don’t take yourselves too seriously at conferences. Enjoy your time away from the grind.
The Plan-Not-to-Plan Person – There you are, Mister Plan-Not-to-Plan person. I see you. You attend conferences with no schedule and no agenda. Everything will happen as it is meant to happen. This conference goer knows that the inevitable will be. If you just show up to a conference you’re bound to get something out of it. You’ll probably run into someone you know, you’ll get rich content from breakouts that you didn’t sign up for, and you’ll benefit from that spontaneous coffee meeting that’ll happen.
Pros: Because you are not a planner and have wide open spaces in your schedule you are pretty much free to enjoy whatever comes your way at the conference.
Cons: Some conferences won’t allow you to attend anything you want without having signed-up for events. Your failure to plan might cost you something here.
Tip: Do some research prior to the conference to make sure you don’t miss something you’d really like to attend. Then make the rest up as you go.
The Hunter – These conference goers are always on the hunt. They have one thing in mind: meeting up with everyone speaker or presenter. They don’t care about the regular conference goer as much as the person printed in the program.
Pros: Making big connections could help you. It could help you launch your career or you could gain a lasting friendship because you stepped out to meet someone who is further along in their journey than you.
Cons: You could spend your whole time chasing cool and miss out on some really great connections with regular conference goers. Besides, you may get disappointed in your efforts. Not everyone whose name is printed in the program at <insert conference name here> is nice — and won’t attempt to oblige a meeting with you.
Tip: If you know there is someone you could really benefit from talking to, don’t be afraid to go for it. I’ve taken many steps out on faith to talk to someone who I highly respected and knew I’d enjoy connecting with. Thankfully, that initial conference meeting turned into a lasting friendship.
One amazing conference that I enjoy each year is The Orange Conference. The last few years I’ve enjoyed LIVE blogging the event and have spoken a couple of times too. It’s such fun networking with everyone there and the content is always solid! Check out the conference website [here] to find out more. You might also check out what others are saying about their experience with Orange by reading from these [blogs].
I want someone to experience Orange this year, so I’d like to send you there! Click [here] to enter to WIN a FREE registration to this year’s Orange Conference in Atlanta, Georgia!
The Orange Conference 2015 will take place in Atlanta from April 29–May 1. For more information and to register, please visit TheOrangeConference.com.