Are you hosting or attending a business event in Chicago? No matter what your role is at the conference, it’s important to do your research beforehand. Conferences are a great way to network with new people and provide value to your career. If you come up with a strategy and a gameplan beforehand, you’ll get more out of the conference.
Choosing the Right Hotel
McCormick Place is the largest convention center in North America and is home to many conferences, expos, trade shows, and other corporate events. If you’re attending something here, you’ll want to stay close by.
The Hyatt Regency McCormick Place is in the center of all. You’re steps away from McCormick Place and in the heart of Downtown Chicago. The hotel has spacious accommodations for busy professionals such as meeting facilities, free internet, in-room concierge service, and an on-site restaurant. It’s a place to look forward to resting in after networking all day.
The Hilton Garden Inn Chicago McCormick Place is another good option that’s close to the action. With free Wi-Fi, indoor pool, and 24/7 fitness center, you can unwind with a good workout routine and reliably stream your favorite shows if you just want to zone out and recharge. No matter where you stay, be sure to book as soon as you know you’ll be attending since rates and availability will swing out of your favor quickly.
Research the Conference
Not all conferences in Chicago are going to be the same. They’re also not going to offer the same value. Research industry-related conferences and speakers. Ask your colleagues for recommendations on the best conferences in the Chicago area. Just because one event is well-known doesn’t mean it’ll add value to your career.
What do you want to take away from attending these conferences? Do you want more clients? An expanded network? Determine your “why” and use this information to find conferences that are worth your time and effort.
Begin Networking Before Your Trip
While conferences bring networking opportunities, this part doesn’t necessarily have to start then. It can start before you step foot in Chicago. Many conferences have their own networking app, which allows you to communicate with the attendees and speakers. Another good start is social media.
Create a list of potential contacts and find them on LinkedIn. Reach out to them a few weeks before the conference. If there’s something you want to talk to, schedule a coffee or lunch meeting before the conference. This can be a great way to break the ice, expand your network, and learn valuable information about the potential client.
Create a Conference Game Plan
The next thing you need to do is come up with a game plan. When you arrive at the conference, you may be so overwhelmed that you don’t know where to start. It’s easy to get lost among the breakout sessions, chatting colleagues, and photo ops. These activities aren’t the most productive ways to enjoy the conference.
Come up with a game plan. Decide who you want to meet, which sessions you want to attend, and what questions you need to answer. Having this list of questions ready before your check-in at the conference registration desk is a great way to expand on your conference experience. And you’ll still have time to do some of the meaningless stuff.
You should have a conference game plan ready before you arrive in Chicago. Having your goal and strategy down on writing can help you stay focused and meet your objectives.
Exchange Contact Information
Don’t let this conference be the one where you don’t make any new connections. Try your best to get their contact information by exchanging business cards. It’s important to have a stack of business cards ready so you can hand them out at the event. Your business cards should include your business name, business address, e-mail address, phone number, and social media information.
If you forget to get someone’s contact information, remembering names will help you with this problem. Everyone time you meet someone, repeat their name several times during the conversation. Repeat it the moment you greet them and when you say goodbye. This confirms to your contact that you’re listening to them and that you are pronouncing their name correctly.
Follow-Up After the Conference
One of the most important parts of attending a conference is the follow-up. A stack of business cards isn’t going to get you far if you don’t initiate contact. Schedule an hour or so after the conference to send follow-up e-mails or LinkedIn messages to your contacts. You don’t want to wait several days or weeks after the event that they forget who you are.
Coming up with a conference strategy can help you get over that pre-event anxiety and overwhelm. It can also help you focus on your goals and experience a positive return on investment. Since conferences are expensive, you want to ensure you’re getting your money’s worth.