Prior to attending a conference, there are a few things you should remember.  Attending Conferences can either be productive or totally overwhelming and a drain, depending on certain factors. Investing time, money, travel, and energy to go to conferences makes it all the more important to prepare. You don't want to feel rushed at the last-minute or worse yet - while you are there.

Below are seven tips to prepare you for attending a conference and to get the most out of your experience.

Mindset, Attitude, Energy

It’s important to tie up loose ends, finish tasks, projects, and deadlines so that you can go away clear minded and caught up. Anything else can wait until you return. At the conference, be in the moment.  Focus on the event, meeting people, being positive, and accessible.   Your frame of mind can set you up to have a great experience and be someone awesome to meet. Smile, be enjoyable, be polite, and engage.

Meeting Specific People

The whole point of going to certain conferences is the chance to meet colleagues, speakers, or presenters you follow and engage with that influence you. If possible, get a list of attendees ahead of time and outline who you want to meet.  Know their background and current activity so that you can create good conversations. Google people you want to meet, check out their LinkedIn page, visit their websites, learn as much as you can about them. If fitting, reach out to them before and invite them to coffee and /or set up a time to meet.

Business Cards

Business cards are still relevant.  It’s a marketing tool. Bring lots.

Elevator Speech

Make sure you prepare your “professional branding statement” when someone asks, “What do you do?” You should have one sentence that opens the door and offers them something they can remember about you.

Opening Questions, Conversation Starters, Chit Chat

Prepare either an icebreaker question or a statement that can build commonality or a personal connection. For example, "Is this your first time at this conference?", "What was your favorite takeaway last year?", "What’s your biggest accomplishment so far this year?"

Social Media Strategy

Whatever the focus of the conference, it should play into your social media strategy. Use LinkedIn to connect with people you meet. Use Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to share who you have met along with a link to their work or website. Use Facebook to check in, post pictures and/or videos of you in action and share your experience.

Follow-Up Plan

The most important part it is the follow-up!  Connect with memorable people and include some specific things you talked about at the conference.  You should do this within four days upon your return.  Connect with them immediately on LinkedIn or other primary social media they may use with a note about meeting them. If people are in proximity, take the initiative to invite them to meet in person.

- Molly Dore, Founder of Dore Consulting Group