The opportunity to attend industry conferences and conventions like the upcoming NBAA’s BACE is a terrific one. But in order to fully capitalize on the experience, it’s important to be in the right frame of mind and to be as prepared as you can be before you leave town.
When you know you’ve done everything you can to get ready for the event, you’re better equipped to make the most of your time away, and in a much better position to make a great impression among your peers and other industry professionals.
Here are just a few tips to gear up for the gathering:
1. Get in the Right Mindset
Before you head to Orlando, try and get yourself in the right state of mind. Finish up those deadlines and take care of any outstanding responsibilities so that you can leave with an open mind. If something can wait until your return, let it. Focus on being positive and present.
2. Prep your Phone and/or Tablet
I highly recommend downloading at least two apps: the CamCard app and the NBAA BACE app. CamCard helps you capture electronically all the business cards you may want to collect, so that any contact information can be quickly and accurately saved to your smartphone.At the end of every day, I load them all into the app and then toss the paper cards. And, by all means, don’t forget to have a good-sized stack of your own cards to share.
The NBAA BACE app lets you:
- Create a personal profile so you can network with fellow attendees before, during and after the event.
- Review educational session descriptions and special events.
- Find exhibit locations, company descriptions and product and service categories.
- View attendees’ posts and photos in real time.
- Upload your own status updates and photos.
- Also, it almost goes without saying that you should take your chargers, cords and batteries and make sure you have everything with you necessary to capture those special moments and immediately share them.
3. Plan your Networking
Strategically thinking about the people you want to meet for the first time, follow up with, and/or introduce to others for their mutual benefit is always sound planning.
Trying to connect with others, even briefly, can help keep that relationship thriving. Research the people and presenters you want to meet by visiting their LinkedIn page, NBAA app profile, social media feeds, etc., to learn as much as you can about them.
4. Learn from Others
Determining ahead of time one or two must-attend sessions from the BACE program agenda is good planning. This is a bit biased, but I’d love it if one of the sessions you choose is the 10:30 to noon Innovation Zone session that I’m moderating, entitled “Retaining Talent in a ‘WIFM’ Culture.”
Over the past few months, I’ve been working hard to get input from as many aviation leaders as possible about what makes a business aviation organization attractive to work for, and how to make it “sticky,” meaning that employees who work there don’t want to leave.
5. Think About Your Personal Brand
The whole point of going to certain conferences is for the opportunity to meet colleagues, suppliers, speakers and other industry professionals. Don’t forget why they should want to meet you, too.
That’s why it’s smart to practice a 30-second personal “elevator pitch” for the conference that mentions a few unique things happening in your professional and/or personal life. So, when someone asks, “What do you do?” you’ll be prepared with a few sentences to help you stand out. Here’s a link to a good article about how to extend yourself at a professional conference.
6. Plan to Follow-up
Usually within the first week after you get home from NBAA, plan an hour or two to follow up with your key contacts. Now’s the time to review those NBAA and CamCard app connections you made, and send LinkedIn invitations to your new associates.
Mention something specific about what you discussed when you met them, so that you will again stand out and be memorable. And for those who are in your area, suggest that you follow up with an in-person meeting.
7. Don’t Over Do It
Last but not least, don’t overlook some of the practical “no-brainers.” One In particular: attending NBAA’s BACE is often exhausting—and it requires that you pack and wear your most comfortable shoes. So, with some thoughtful planning ahead of time, you can help yourself to avoid the dreaded “day one burn-out.”
As hard as it might be, I encourage you to eat well, stay hydrated, take breaks and get as much sleep as possible so that you’re on top of your game. That way, you’ll have enough energy to take advantage of all the opportunities there are at BACE, and then harness some of that renewed optimism and energy to take back to your team.
Enjoy the show!