I have always wanted to be one of those people who got to travel for work, not only because it seemed glamorous, but because I wanted to be able to represent a brand I believed in. So when I was asked to accompany one of our partners, Amanda, to her speaking engagement at Hero Conference in Philadelphia, I was elated. As we spent 3 days deep into the paid-search world and networking until we were blue in the face, I learned a lot of conference must-knows. So, here are a few key takeaways I have for others out there who aren’t sure what to expect.
You don’t need business cards
When I was starting to get ready to leave, I started to semi-freak out that I hadn’t gotten my new business cards in with our company’s new branding. Turns out, we didn’t need them anyway! It’s a digital conference, so bringing a small piece of cardboard did seem a little silly in retrospect because everyone connects via Twitter and LinkedIn.
Food runs out quickly and you’re not guaranteed a plate. Sometimes you have to sacrifice a hot meal for the networking chance of a lifetime. The conference organizers absolutely do their best to make sure food is plentiful, but I found that my snacks saved the day more often than not.
Flats are fine (and even jeans!)
I’m not a very fashion-forward person, but I do enjoy picking out my outfits for big events (or any event really). I dusted off my dress slacks and pumps for the trip and ended up wearing jeans and dresses most of the time with my trusted loafers. People wore everything from jeans and a t-shirt to full-on suits, so wear what you feel comfortable in and don’t worry too much about it.
You can sleep when you’re dead
It’s a very busy few days where most of your time is planned out and you have been traveling, so you may be exhausted, but absolutely take every opportunity given to you. Go to the parties, network, even take time to see the sites, because you will totally regret it if you don’t.
Take the leap of faith
I went with Amanda, a seasoned veteran of the conference circuit, so I had to quickly learn that I couldn’t stay attached to her hip the whole night if I wanted to grow my own network and be able to learn information pertinent to my position. In this situation, remember it is absolutely expected to just go up to people, introduce yourself, and get into a conversation, so don’t be afraid to take the leap!
Record + take notes
Lastly, you’re in a whirlwind of knowledge and learning, and your brain can only hold so much information, so it was important for us to record the sessions we attended as well as take notes while within it. We were able to share these recordings and notes with our team members who weren’t there and it’s a valuable learning experience for them as well.
I gained a lot of useful search-engine marketing and paid-search information, but I also got to meet a lot of people in the community and industry outside of the office we go to every day.
Don’t be afraid to take chances and ask questions, even though you may lose a little sleep, it will all be worth it in the end to have an incredible conference experience.