Conference Success Tips for Content Marketing World

Use these tips to optimize your experience at CMWorld (or any other huge conference or convention).

a photo of the urban farm at the Cleveland Convention Center1. Have a Plan B.

Sessions fill up fast, so I always have a Plan B. Choose a second or third option as a back-up so you have another shot at getting useful information and inspiration. That Plan B can include quiet time in a corner of the convention center, a walk outside or simply gazing over the urban garden and farmyard (featuring bees and pigs!).

2. Take advantage of the long breaks.

Some breaks you’ll probably spend triaging your email or putting out a fire at work. But don’t keep your head down the whole time. Set up meetings for the break times, or start up a conversation with the person behind you in line for orange-colored snacks.

3. Wear something noticeable.

Yeah, I know you have your name-tag, but it’s weird staring at people’s navels or chests trying to find the person you’re looking for, and sometimes tags are flipped over any way. And I know you can send pictures, but some folks aren’t good at recognizing faces, especially in a sea of them. I’m not saying you have don something outlandish, but something special like a lapel pin, tie, graphic t, hat or scarf makes you easy to spot. Thanks to my mom and my little sister Kristen, I have a lot of awesome necklaces and scarves so I tell contacts to look for that as well.

4. Talk to your neighbors.

Margot Lester's business cardThis is so third grade, but I’m always surprised how many people don’t talk to the folks sitting next to them. You don’t need to share your life stories or even continue the conversation, but a quick “Hi, I’m…” and a “what do you do?” isn’t hard, and you might end up meeting someone who needs your services or vice versa. Bring enough cards that you can give them out with impunity.

5. Leverage vendors and clients.

If your partners and customers have a booth, use that as your meeting spot. You’ll be easier to find and it gives you a chance to introduce your contact to the exhibitor. No, I’m not saying you should shill, but saying “hi” isn’t an imposition on either party. You also should attend events sponsored by clients and vendors to help sing their praises. After all, their success is yours, too.

6. Follow the hashtags and influencers.

If you're like me, you'll be double-booked a couple of times during the week. This is obvious, yet few of us do it: follow the conference hashtag, #CMWorld, and the Twitter handles of the speakers you're missing. Another option if you're going with friends or colleagues is to have a conference buddy who you can trade notes with later.

A tasty salad from the Urban Farmer in Cleveland7. Make dinner reservations now.

The best places fill up fast during CMW, so hop online and save your spot now. My default is a four-top, because I can easily downsize if necessary, and it’s not too onerous to add two more. If you think or know you’re going to have a big group, definitely reserve now. Three of my favorites within walking distance of the Convention Center: Lola, Greenhouse Tavern and Urban Farmer. Bonus tip: Skip the free breakfast at the conference at grab something healthy at Anna in the Raw.

8. Show gratitude (and patience).

Unless you’ve planned a huge event, you have no idea how much is required to pull it off. I worked my way through college working at and managing the student center where we hosted most of the big events. It’s hard, hard work. Give some love to the CMW team (they’re all outfitted in noticeable gear) for sure, but especially to the folks who are keeping us fed and caffeinated, the bathrooms clean and the trash picked up, the A/V working, etc. Bonus points if you give them a hand by picking up your own trash and maybe somebody else’s. Leave a tip for the housekeepers at your hotel, and do right by the waits and bartenders at the local eateries, too.

9. Use the app.

This is the best way to plan your conference week, enabling you to choose favorites among the sessions, and to identify and connect with prospects, etc. The handy alerts remind you when and where to go for each time period, and the master scheduler auto populates from within the app and enables you to add your own events, so you have everything in one place. It's even got a place for notes and social posts. Don't forget to make your profile public so you're discoverable! Download the app via iTunes or Google Play

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