I was in Las Vegas last week to participate in an ACG Intergrowth panel about how the rise of the social web is changing the way we network.  David Teten, the author of the book the Virtual Handshake and CEO of Teten Advisors, was one of my fellow panelists and also a featured speaker at the conference.  In the talk he gave, David introduced me to a concept he calls Conference Attendance Optimization, which is his process for making sure he gets the most possible ROI out of the conference he goes to.

After selecting the conference you want to attend, David suggests getting a list of conference attendees in advance.  If you can’t get a full list, I’d suggest putting together your own list of probable attendees by going through the speaker and sponsor list and making some educated guesses based on previous conferences. Once you have the list, go through it and identify the people you want to meet.  Then get in touch with the folks you are targeting in advance of the conference to arrange a short (15 minute) meeting during breaks or after hours.  This process will help ensure you meet everyone you want to at the conference and maximize your time at the event.

After the conference is over, David suggests sending follow up emails to the folks you meet as a way of keeping in touch and continuing the conversation.  David is also a big proponent of executives and companies methodically maintaining contact databases of the people in their network.

I think David provides a very useful framework for planning your conference attendance.  I think it also scales well based on your personality, function in your company and appetite for networking.  An employee whose primary function is sales might schedule 20 meetings with potential customers.  A graphic designer attending an educational conference might only target two to three industry leaders whose brain they want to pick.  In putting together my personal list as a sort of jack of all trades type, I’d focus on reconnecting with people I haven’t seen in a while and on meeting people in person who I’ve only met virtually (there are a ton of them).

How you optimize your attendance is really up to you.  The important point here is to develop an actual strategy in advance that ensures you are getting the most out of the conferences you attend.

Do you have any conference attendance tricks of your own?

About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.