Like many others, we are gearing up for a very busy season of fall HR Conferences taking place all over the US, including HR Florida 2017, the California HR Conference, GPUG Summit, and HR Southwest 2017. emPerform has been attending, sponsoring, and speaking at leading HR Conference since 2004 – and as you can imagine, have picked up some very useful tips and tricks for navigating conference expo halls and making the most of our visit to these great events.
We always look forward to being in the Expo hall ready to meet with our amazing customers & valuable partners and to chat with attendees about their performance management challenges. But we have to admit that we have it easy compared to attendees. After all, while we are nestled in our comfy booth, attendees have to run from session to session – all while staying on top of the happenings at the office. The overall experience makes it more than worth it, but we want to help ensure that all attendees not only enjoy their time at the events, but that everyone also leaves with valuable take-aways and action items from the sessions as well as the abundance of information available in the Expo Hall.
We have decided to compile our best tips and tricks to help attendees get the most from their time at HR Conferences. If you are planning to attend an event this fall or next year, you’ll definitely want to skim these.
Seems like a no-brainer but you would be surprised how big the convention centers can get and how much walking is done in the Expo hall and to-and-from sessions. Tuck a pair or flats or sneakers in your bag if you need to swap your heels for something a little more ‘conference-friendly’.
Not only does packing lightly help eliminate the time wasted deciding what to wear, but it also lets you carry your luggage onto plane, avoiding baggage waits and potentially losing your baggage on route to the conference. As a bonus, packing light will let you save room for all the conference material, knick-knacks, and emPerform swag you plan to take home.
Make Time to Experience the City:
Many attendees travel to conferences and events. Conferences offer the opportunity to network and learn, but don’t forget to experience the city you are visiting! Be sure to make the most of your time by checking the local weather (and dressing accordingly), browsing the hotel’s surrounding map and neighborhood for interesting venues or events, and check the local reviews on Trip Advisor to see if there are can’t miss attractions that you should squeeze into your visit.
Our favorite city moments? Even as vendors, we make time to experience the city. We have done everything from a cowboy mountain horse ride and steak-fry in Phoenix, AZ, to amazing haunted houses in Dallas, TX, the CN Tower and 360° Restaurant in Toronto, ON, Cirque de Solei in Las Vegas, NV, the Aquarium in Long Beach, CA.
Make an Expo plan:
Never enter an Expo hall without a plan of which vendors you would like to see, why, for how long, and what you plan to take away from each meeting. Without planning, you might get distracted by all the lights and gifts and miss the opportunity to get one-on-one interactions with potential vendors and solutions that your company needs. Most conferences offer a vendor list on their website (along with a handy map), hand out maps at the expo entrance, or include the exhibitor list in the conference program. If possible, book meeting times with key vendors in advance so they are expecting you and can set aside some dedicated time. Most vendors post contact details in their program listing.
Avoid the crowds:
Skip overly crowded booths and make a plan to go back at the end of the day or when traffic has died down during sessions. If you are going to invest your time in any booth, it is better spent if you have the undivided attention of the vendor. Again, contacting the vendor in advance to request dedicated time is a great way to ensure you have their full attention.
We find it useful to make a note-sheet to jot down key discussion points and take-aways from your conversations in the different booths. It gets easy to forget names and key facts and side-by-side notes will help you compare solutions and services after the conference.
Bring a bag:
Most conference provide bags for attendees. These are often comfy back-pack style bags perfect for conference material and booth swag. If no bag is provided, or if you are unsure of one will be, bring your own tote to the expo hall. You’ll be glad you did.
Passing by is okay:
It is easy to feel compelled to make eye contact and engage with any vendor in a booth but unless you are interested in what they have to offer or have a plan to see then, don’t be afraid to smile and walk on by. As a vendor, we can tell you that we are more than happy to exchange a quick hello and smile.
Asked to be scanned:
Many modern conferences offer vendors the option to ‘scan’ attendee badges. This shoots your contact details to the vendor without the need to exchange cards or notes. If you have limited time but like to ensure follow up or to request a resource, go ahead and ask the vendor to scan you. They will gladly oblige and the process takes seconds. As a benefit, attendee badges often double as business card holders for the cards that you collect!
Get down to it:
Conferences typically leave a finite amount of time in between sessions where you can converse with vendors. To make the most of your time, don’t be afraid to tell vendors you have X many minutes. That way, you can avoid the casual pleasantries and get down the business.
Vendors are in their booths ready to show you the latest technology and services to help make your life easier – but unless you ask all the questions that relate to your unique requirements, you won’t know if they truly are a fit. Don’t be scared to ask any and all questions you have. That’s what vendors are there for!
Again, there is only a finite amount of time at the expo to get the information you need from the different vendors. Ask vendors if they are hosting any post-show webinars or information sessions that you can attend, or arrange a post-conference meeting or demo with any vendors of interest. This will allow you to continue the conversation beyond the expo.
Prepare for email:
Many booths offer draws and prizes in exchange for your scanned badge, business card, or completed ballot. Bring plenty of business cards to take advantage of this, but be prepared to get some emails. Most vendors offer an easy way to opt out of email communication if you find yourself not interested after the event, but you can prevent emails altogether by requesting that the vendor refrain from emailing you after the event. Most are happy to oblige.
Many expo halls host galas or receptions with drinks, snacks and cocktails. Check your expo schedule for these times and make a plan to attend. They usually take place after the last session and right before dinner and are a great chance to network, meet with vendors in a more casual atmosphere, and take in the fun events and delights that the conference has planned. We have seen everything from musicians, to acrobats, magicians, dessert-mountains, and craft beer stations!
These great tips will help you manage the chaos of an HR conference expo hall and ensure you leave the event with valuable material that will benefit your career and your company.
emPerform will be at some upcoming conferences and we hope to see you there!
Join us at:
- California HR Conference 2017 | August 28-30 in Long Beach, CA | Booth #436
- HR Florida Conference 2017 | August 28-30 in Orlando, FL | Booth #200
- HR Southwest Conference 2017 | October 2-4 in Fort Worth, TX | Booth #1009