During the last week of March I attended my first business-related convention and I’ll tell you what, it was nothing like I expected! The presenter not only had a stage, she started the “show” with a band, hired a professional and well-known comedian to emcee the event, showed movies, played upbeat music, had an exhibit area for sponsor booths, and had a multitude of speakers… all in addition to the material she was teaching! Talk about information overload!
But it was all good. I was given the opportunity to meet several fellow virtual assistants and a couple of clients I had never met face-to-face before. Of course, I met a LOT of other people too since there were over 650 people in attendance.
So you might expect this newsletter to cover some of the topics I learned regarding marketing, networking, promotion, business planning… but I’m not. Instead I’m going to share some of the nitty-gritty nuts and bolts I learned about the process of attending a convention instead. Even if you don’t travel to conventions, I think you’ll find some of this information to be useful even for vacations!
- Make a list of what you need to take. Most people know I’m a huge fan of lists, and traveling is no exception. I made a list, starting a week in advance, of everything I knew I wanted or needed to take and added to it as the thoughts popped into my head. It’s fantastic for those last minute things that you might otherwise forget in the rush to leave.
- Roll your clothes when you pack them. I never tried this trick before but I actually was able to fit far more clothes in my suitcase than I’m used to packing. I don’t think it cut down on wrinkles, but as long as I hung out my clothes, the wrinkles lessened.
- Taking extra vitamins might not be enough to keep you from catching something! This particular event was held at a hotel located in the Orlando airport. Meals were eaten among the general travelers. Even though I washed my hands often and don’t touch handrails and such, I still came down with one of the worst “colds” I can ever remember having. I can’t speak for its effectiveness, but next time I’m giving Airborne a try.
- Be yourself. Everyone lately is talking about being authentic, being different, standing out from the crowd to get noticed. I learned through networking with some folks that simply being myself got more attention than when I tried to put on the professional business woman guise. Yes, I am one, but that’s not the skin I am comfortable in. So, be yourself and be relaxed.
- Have plenty of business cards HANDY. Conventions are typically places where you’re expected to network… i.e. exchange business cards. Someone showed me a great tip for keeping my business cards accessible: I put them inside my plastic name badge holder but behind the name badge. It worked like a charm!
- Establish a collection method in advance. Have a system for where you will put all the business cards you collect, as well as all of the receipts. There’s nothing more frustrating than knowing you have a piece of paper with important information on it and can’t remember which of five places you might have put it.
- Have a plan for doing something with all of those business cards once you get back! I made notes on the business cards I collected so that I would know who they were later when I reviewed them. When I returned home, I decided with whom and how to keep in touch… and I followed through. I’m amazed at how many folks, especially the booth sponsors, have not added me to their mailing lists or reached out in any way. That’s poor follow-up.
- Somehow you will always come back with more than you took. This convention gave us notebooks, binders, bags and countless other goodies that took up far more room than you would expect! Plan for this additional baggage in advance, especially if you are flying.
Traveling can be stressful, confusing and overwhelming, but if you take just a little bit of time to plan in advance you’ll find you can lessen the hectic moments of panic. Enjoy your travels!