Are You Really Getting the Best Value from the Events You Attend? Part 1

Industry events are exciting! It’s an opportunity for you to get out of the office, mingle with your peers, and learn something new. But sometimes the experience can be overwhelming with multiple session tracks to choose from and scores of attendees. You may also feel awkward trying to network or be shy about giving away company secrets. How do you make sure you are getting as much out of each event as you can?

Return Path is in the midst of a month-long World Tour and we’ve also recently presented at the Future of Email events in Denver and Miami. You may or may not know that extensive planning goes into each event to ensure that the speakers are sharing compelling, useful content, and that there are a variety of ways for you, as an attendee, to participate. Yesevents are designed for your benefit! To help you get the most of your time away from the office, consider these tips:

Before you arrive:

  • Know your strengths and weaknesses. A week or two ahead of the event, take 30 minutes to think about your program objectively. What are some tactics that are working really well for you? Where are some areas of opportunity? What are some topics you’d like to know more about how to tackle? Having a general list of things, like “we have a robust trigger strategy with 2x response rates, but we haven’t updated our creative for mobile yet” can be helpful in guiding your focus for the event.
  • Make a session plan. A few days ahead of the event, take a look at the published agenda (most events have an agenda tab/page on their website), and note the key sessions/topics. Refer to your strengths/weaknesses list and choose at least 2 “must attend” sessions for each event day.

At the event:

  • Take notes! Whether you use an old-fashioned pen/paper, your laptop, or even Twitter, be sure to capture the key takeaways from each session or roundtable. You can only absorb so much at once, and having the notes will be incredibly valuable to reference once you get back to the office.
  • Actively participate in roundtables. You may be tempted to skip that roundtable session, but this is a prime opportunity for you to learn from your peers and get one-on-one advice from industry leaders. Pull out that strengths list and share some of your successes; then don’t be shy to ask for tips from others to help you address your areas of opportunity.
  • Make an effort to meet someone new. You aren’t the only person at the cocktail hour who is shy to introduce themselves. Be observant and look for someone standing by themselves, waiting in the bar line, or a speaker you saw in an earlier session. Then, be bold and introduce yourselfthe event itself is a great icebreaker ( for example: “I was surprised to learn that great thing in your session today…” “So-and-so company shared this great advice in the roundtable…” “What have you enjoyed most about this event?”).

Look for Part 2 of this post to learn how to leverage your great event experience once you get back to the office.

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