Preparing For and Attending Your First Conference as a Young Practitioner
Attending events and conferences on your own as a junior practitioner can feel daunting. Here are a few pointers that can help you prepare before you attend.
1. Bring your business cards
A bit of a no-brainer, but none the less is worth noting. Bring your business cards and bring more than you think you will need. It is always beneficial to have plenty of cards with you in case you meet a number of people with whom you want to connect.
2. Choose an event that is right for you
As a young practitioner, you want to ensure that you are choosing an event or conference that is appropriate for your years of practice. This will ensure that the information you receive during the educational sessions will be relevant and important to you in your career development and appropriate to your skill set. Also, you will have an opportunity to meet with peers who you can connect with and begin to build relationships.
If you are attending an event or conference that has a portal with a list of attendees or if your firm has sponsored it, you may have access to the list of attendees. By reviewing the list in advance, you will have the opportunity to consider the persons that you want to meet, and then can seek out certain persons who may be clients or potential clients of your firm or who may be good connections to develop your practice.
Also, you may want to do some online searching of the persons you want to meet to have some basic information about them, such as their titles, areas of expertise, etc.
3. Tell people
Tell your colleagues and mentors you are attending this event or conference. Members of your practice group may request that you meet with or say hello to their contacts. If you have the list of attendees, you may also wish to confirm whether any attendees are from firm clients and ask client managers whether they would like you to reach out.
Telling people may also assist you to circumvent potentially embarrassing meetings during the conference, such as not realizing someone you are speaking with knows a member of your firm or is a client of your firm.
Receptions and social events at an event or conference are just as valuable as the educational components. You get to connect with persons you may not otherwise have the opportunity to meet and may build professional relationships or friendships from these encounters.
5. Don’t forget to follow up
Collect the business cards of those people you connect with. If you are receiving a number of cards, you may want to divide them based on the “hot/warm” and “cold/cool” leads or opportunities. Put the “hot” cards in one pocket, the “cold” in another. This will make it easier to identify the most important people to reach out to when you get back to the office. Just don’t mix up your pockets!
Many people choose an event, conference or professional/trade organization and remain engaged for years. If you continue to attend year after year, you are likely to see a selection of the same persons. By following up with them in advance and setting up a time to meet, you maintain your relationships and build stronger connections.
Hopefully these tips will assist with attending your first few events or conferences. For more tips on business development, read my article “Tips to Flex Your Business Development Muscles as a Young Practitioner”. With practice and consistency, you’ll become an experienced attendee!