It’s that time of year again—hundreds of business professionals across the country are starting to gear up for Enterprise Connect. We’re excited to be participating again (come visit us at booth #518!) and to help you get the most bang for your conference buck, we’ve put together a few handy tips on how to get the most out of Enterprise Connect.
Before you leave
Set some goals
With over 5,000 attendees, 60 sessions, and 190 exhibitors, Enterprise Connect 2017 is a lot to sink your teeth into. The very first thing you need to do is spend some time thinking about your goals for the conference. Are you looking to learn about the newest innovations in unified communications and collaboration? Are you looking to network with like-minded professionals? What do you want to get out of the event?
Enterprise Connect has nine conference tracks to help shape your conference experience. Take some time to review them, and prioritize what themes meet your business goals.
Make a plan
Enterprise Connect has a handy Conference Scheduler on their website designed to help you structure your time. It integrates with the Enterprise Connect App, so make sure you use the same login credentials. Use your goals to help line up which breakout sessions, keynotes and social events you plan to attend. Leave space in your schedule for coffee meetings and chatting with speakers after the sessions. These are a fantastic way to amp up your network.
Pro tip: Don’t forget to register ahead of time for meetings with preferred vendors like Mitel. If you have an appointment scheduled, you won’t get lost in the shuffle (and you’ll get the best swag).
Research the speakers
The speakers for each of the events at Enterprise Connect are listed directly on the Conference Scheduler. Once you’ve identified which sessions are most interesting to you, do a little research on your speakers. Typically a speaker will have a website, where you can view videos of previous sessions or events they’ve held. At the very least, look them up on LinkedIn and find out as much as you can.
Research your own company
One mistake you can make as a conference attendee is to wait to start thinking about your own business processes in the middle of a breakout session. To fully absorb the best practices and recommendations discussed in each session, take some time in the week before the conference to really think through how your business operates. Who are the key players? Are there any process areas you don’t understand? Listening to a breakout session on a technical subject will prove so much more powerful if you have a frame of reference to map to, instead of trying to take copious notes and apply it when you return to work.
Get familiar with your surroundings
The Gaylord Palms Convention Center can be a labyrinth. The Enterprise Connect App is a convenient place to view the venue map to help you find where you’re going. Look up your session locations before the first day so you don’t have to spend conference time searching.
At the event
Get there early
We all know that conferences in general aren’t just about the knowledge you learn from speakers and breakout sessions. The conversations you have with other professionals between sessions and waiting for events to start can be extremely valuable. Plan to arrive early each day to catch the early risers, and don’t be afraid to show up a little early to a session to strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you.
Catch the speakers during other sessions
One little-known fact is that conference workers, including speakers, often use the time during sessions for downtime, or to check out other parts of the conference. Take a session or two to wander the halls and meet with a few conference workers and speakers.
Jot action items, not notes
Instead of investing too much time in copious notes, take time after each session or important conversation to jot 2-4 action steps for follow up. Try to categorize what you’ve learned into timeframes – immediate, mid-term, long-term – and report back to the team. If you’re using a notetaking application, try using different symbols or colors for each category. Try not to invest too much in copious notes; most presentations will provide you with slides or a video after the fact, if you need it.
Mix it up
It’s a cliché for a reason: conferences are networking events. Plan to spend time with new people, and make sure any colleagues you’re traveling with understand that you’ll need time to network. When you meet a new person, get their business card. Afterwards, jot a few notes on the back on how you met them and what you discussed. That way, when you’re sending your follow-up emails the week after Enterprise Connect, you won’t forget why you wanted to connect with someone in the first place.
Be strategic with your social events
Particularly if you’re an introvert, the sheer number of face-to-face interactions at Enterprise Connect can be overwhelming. It’s important to be strategic about which social events you plan to attend. Don’t forget to leave time for a quiet breakfast, lunch or dinner with a few new people each day. And select social events that are designed to help smaller groups of people interact. The Booth Crawl on Tuesday, March 28 from 4:00 – 6:00 PM is a great example of a social event that helps make the masses a little more manageable to give you some one-on-one time with other attendees.
Tweet about it
Take note of the official Enterprise Connect 2017 Twitter account and hashtags: @enterprisecon and #EC17.
Plan to travel
The Gaylord Palms has plenty of dining options, but occasionally you may want to have dinner offsite with new contacts or your colleagues. Think about booking a car service (ridesharing or taxi) ahead of time, as there is usually a rush around dinner times. And think about making a few restaurant reservations for smaller groups ahead of time. The nearest restaurants outside the hotel are a 10- to 15-minute drive away, so plan accordingly.
Get some exercise
While there is a gym at the Gaylord Palms, one of the best ways to get your workout in is by walking the Atrium. The entire campus is indoors, which is a blessing in the Florida heat, so take advantage of the lush surroundings to get some steps in before the day starts. Don’t forget to take advantage of the pool at night as well.
Take a nap
Well, maybe not literally. But give yourself some downtime each day. Plan to take a walk, or go back to your room to get some quiet time and refocus on your goals. Pushing yourself to attend every event will leave you stressed and unable to absorb new information. You’re investing a lot of time in Enterprise Connect—give yourself a leg up in learning as much as you can by making sure you get plenty of rest when you can.
Don’t forget the tchotchkes
Everyone’s favorite part of conferences: the swag! You’re going to get a lot of cool stuff directly from vendors at the Expo, but don’t discount the swag you’ll get as you first register. That first bag you receive at the registration table can have some really great finds, so check it out! You might find giveaways, flyers with exclusive deals for attendees, and sometimes there are even raffle entries. Take a few minutes to look through what you’ve got before tossing anything—you never know what you might find!
Most importantly: Have fun
Enterprise Connect hosts the best innovators in our field, and there is always something new to learn. Have fun, and come see us!