This is the first of a two part article titled:
"Conference Stars: How to Get the Most Out of Conferences".
You can read Part One here.
Dress to Impress
You'll be making a lot of first impressions during the event, and it helps to look sharp. Some conference attendees will opt to adopt a signature style to help them stand out (depending on the industry) - like a bow tie or pair of red heels. Don't underestimate the important of dressing well.
Be Prepared to Meet
It's much less intimidating to enter a large event if you know who you want to speak with, and what you'd like to say. Make sure you get one-on-one time with the person you want to connect with, especially if you're at a large event, such as a conference.
Arrange to meet with the other person on their own terms. It's often possible to slip into someone's schedule if you send out a request to connect in advance. Think of it from a speaker's perspective: during an event, they might speak to a crowd of several hundred people and perhaps meet with a dozen audience members.
You're far more likely to make an impression if you meet with someone individually. It gives you the chance to convey who you are, why you're interested in meeting with them and speak about common experiences in order to really connect.
Check with the program for the names of key figures you'd like to meet and make sure you attend those sessions. Be ready to introduce yourself, and arrive early at events where they'll speak or stay behind to speak with them.
When you get the opportunity to connect, be prepared with smart questions- something that can't be answered by a quick Google search. You should have a general idea of what the person is like (public LinkedIn and Twitter accounts offer insight into what they are like as a person or what they feel strongly about), and be up-to-date about what's happening with their company.
Everybody has something of value to contribute and share: being prepared helps you maximize your impact when you connect.
Don't Forget To Follow Up
Don't forget to follow up with individuals you meet at the conference. As a general rule of thumb, I advise our clients at Global Professionals Practicum (GPP) to follow up with someone within 24 hours of making a connection. I would recommend sending a brief email - it should express your gratitude, mention a memorable part of your meeting, and reaffirm any commitments either of you may have made.
If you really want to impress, you can follow your email with a hand-written note to add a personal touch. Don't forget to send out invitations to connect on social media as well.
It's also a great idea to share your thoughts about the conference after you've attended- do it as soon as you leave so it'll get out to everyone while they're still hyped up from the event.
This article is part of an ongoing series on how to build successful professional relationships and networks. Follow us at Huffington Post or Global Professionals Practicum