With Cruise World, Luxury Travel Expo, ASTA Convention, Cruise3Sixty and other big events coming up this Fall and the Spring of next year I thought I would share some of my tips in getting the biggest bang from your invested time and money at any of the valuable conferences coming up.
First of all I admire you for your professionalism and dedication to our industry for spending the time and money to attend these events. I am half of the time lucky as I live in Las Vegas where some of these big shows are held. Since I am more involved in cruises, I do expect to have to fly to port destinations like Florida or Vancouver the other half of the time.
I have learned, sometimes the hard way that these few days are packed with more events than you can imagine. That doesn’t include any other dinners, friendly get togethers, a great networking opportunity, or party you might be invited to.
I plan ahead and always remember to do the following:
If I am flying to the destination I always give myself a full day prior to the event or at least most of the day to recover from the trip and to adjust to a new time zone. I find that as I age this becomes much more important. I want to be rested so I am ready to take it all in for the next few days. I always pack a swim suit as I find getting into a nice refreshing pool after a day in the friendly skies really clears the cobwebs out of my head and relaxes me for the evening.
Remember you are going to be on your feet a lot. Between running to the big meeting events, trade shows and the breakout sessions in these gigantic convention centers, you are racking up the miles. Throw in some ship inspections and your calves will be screaming for relief! Make sure you have a pair of, “my shoes are made for walkin’” with you including a nice gel insert. You will love yourself for your forward thinking. I also bring a pair of light weight compression running tights which really helps especially on trade show and ship inspection days. These really help when you are standing and walking for long periods of time. This is just another way of adjusting to being on your feet for hours after too many years of sitting at the desk!
Since we always seem to get some sort of nice bag to put stuff in from a vendor, I always throw in a couple of bottles of water I bring along on the first day. Bringing them along is a real money saver. If you have to buy water on site it can be very pricey. It’s amazing how fast you can dehydrate since you are on the go so much. You want to avoid getting prematurely tired or nauseous. Dehydrationcauses this and water is a simple fix. Throw in a couple of power bars while you’re at it.
Another idea I have used and now rely on is to add a voice recorder app to my phone. Google Play has a whole bunch of options and most of them are free. They are listed under voice recorder. You can use it as a Dictaphone and make comments or record important facts faster and easier than taking notes. You can easily get excited about a new idea or concept and be determined to remember it. Returning back to your office some of these great ideas get erased from your memory bank. Another app called Cardmunch is a great tool when you are on the go at a conference. Download the app and it allows you to take a picture of a business card then it automatically imports the information into your contacts.
Business cards are an important tool so consider re-printing and updating your card well before you leave for the conference. Nobody wants crossed out phone numbers or email addresses on a business card since the card is part of your identity! Remember to bring a lot more than you think you will need.
Also before you leave, scan the agenda of the event and check out the guest speakers and presenters both at the seminars and at the trade show. Make a list of those that interest you and contact them in advance to let them know you would like to meet with them to spend a little time picking their brain. They will appreciate this and see you as a well-organized go-getter that they will want to see. This is a great way to expand your business in terms of sales growth with a significant increase in your profit! Making friends with these reps is the way to develop an ongoing relationship. After all isn’t that what you came to the conference for?
Social media comes into the picture too. Find out if the event has a Facebook page for those attending the event. This is a great way to network in advance with other travel professionals also attending. Most big shows also use Twitter to keep attendees up to date with what is going on each day.
Planning ahead to what you want to accomplish and seeing to your comfort and well-being is half the battle in completing a successful conference attendance. Remember that what is important to you at a conference is why you are there. Sometimes a meeting with a vendor you really want to work with is more important than sitting in the big ball room listening to opening remarks. Remember this event is all about you and what you need to grow your business. Nobody can make you follow the herd if it doesn’t benefit you.
Now that you are at the conference and have worked out your schedule, take advantage of the fact that you are seeing important vendors face to face. Talk about how you can increase your business withthem and get new ideas on how to do that. Ask for co-op funds and other help and offer to be a partner with them to make it beneficial to your business as well as theirs. Don’t use this time to complain about some client issue in the past. This is also a good time to find out who the rep’s inside assistant is in the company office as these people are magical in getting special things done for you.
For seminars make sure you make note of at least one valuable take away idea. When you review your notes later you may not have the same insight to what was valuable to you at this specific seminar. This one idea can jog your memory and make your notes easier to decipher.
Your fellow travel professionals are extremely valuable to you in your quest for success so take as much networking time with like-minded agents as you can. Share information and trade business cards and follow up with them after you return home.
Each evening back at your hotel, you will want to review the material you have collected and the notes or recordings you have made and sort them into importance to your growth. This will help you when you get back home to utilize all the new ideas and contacts you have worked so hard to acquire.
Now that you have returned home, it is very easy to slip back into your old ways and dismiss all of the new material and contact you now have. Don’t let that happen! Do follow ups with the people you have met and you have spent time with. Add them to your Facebook, Linkedin and any other social media accounts. Follow up with an email thanking them for their time and ask them to add you to their sales blast lists. You can even send follow up emails to those vendor reps or speakers you wanted to meet with but for some reason were unable to touch base with.
Attending conferences is hard work but can be very successful with a bit of planning and ruthless execution. The networking and follow up are crucial to the overall success of the time and money you have invested in this conference. Make it pay off for years and years.