In March 2016 I attended the National Society of Black Engineers Convention in Boston. Since I attended as a collegiate member but also as an ambassador for 2 tech companies, I had to make sure that I prepared as much as I could pre-conference.
For the NSBE convention specifically, my pre-planning resulted in; onsite interviews, networking event invitations, job offers, and presentation opportunities.
Comment below if there's a specific strategy that you use to prepare for conferences.
- Get the conference schedule as soon as possible and start to chart where you should invest your time. If you are attending a workshop, also put together productive questions to ask the presenter.
- Check on social media to see if anyone is posting about the conference ahead of time. This gives you a chance to network before you even get to the conference and therefore saving time! The conference most likely has a hashtag that you can check.
- Look for opportunities that you can pursue ahead of time. For example, submitting your resume to a company’s database (Many companies now tell students to apply online and don’t collect paper resumes so, save time and effort with this step), chances to schedule an interview for the conference, chances to self-promote, competitions, etc.
- Take advantage of the free information online and do your research on attendees. Checking out someone’s site or twitter feed can give you insight that they are promoting a business opportunity you’ve been looking for or that they are interested in the same passions as you.
- Stay up to date on relevant industry news. If you are attending a business conference, check out the sponsors recent news or stock activity. If you are attending an engineering conference, read up on the latest technology and any groundbreaking work that may be a great conversation started to show how involved you are in your industry.
- Do your research on the sponsors/recruiters so that you know who you do and don’t need to invest time in.
- Make sure you’ve taken care of your current work or to-do list. Try to complete everything and more since you’ll be devoting a lot of time to this event and will possibly even need to rest up post-conference.
- Update your online profiles because, after networking people will be looking you up and seeing what you're all about. You want to make sure your online presence is positive.
- If you are interested in networking or connecting, make that known. Tweet or post with the conference hashtag with a call to action. Like, “Hey #NSBE42! I’ll be at the Google networking event if you’re interested in connecting about Virtual Reality tech!”.
- Use TweetDeck to schedule strategic tweets. You want to be present during conference. Having your mind on your social media strategy takes away from the information and opportunities being presented to you at the conference.
- (The night before) Charge your back-up battery if you’ll be taking a lot of photos or using your phone for the conference app.
- Order relevant and fresh business cards. I was
networking with a company that I was interviewing for and towards the end both
recruiters wanted to give me business cards but, didn’t have any on them. I had
mine and they were super impressed! Moreover, my cards were good quality and
reflected me as a professional.
Candid photo of Semirah presenting at the NSBE Fire Pit Business Competition and placing Top 3!
- If you have a presentation or pitch to give at the conference, practice practice practice! Conferences are usually where people come to see the best practices, network, and exchange advise/opportunities. You don’t want to be written off because you wasted everyone’s time with an unproductive presentation.
- If you see someone you want to network with, do it! There’s no time like the present. Also, if this is an event that people have to travel to, it’s going to be really hard to connect with someone you didn’t speak with post-conference. You don’t want to regret a missed connection. You will probably see them next year but, people and situations change so take advantage of the present.
- Plan your wardrobe. I brought all of my outfits for the NSBE convention from Banana Republic. It was such a time saver to just pull out a hanger from my wardrobe bag and have my outfit all ready and ironed. Even prepare your evening party outfits.
- Research last year’s conference and the opportunities that may also be available this year. If Twitter hosted a hackathon last year with awesome prizes then, see if that is the case for this year as well.
Follow my Women In Tech series here.
Support Women in Engineering on Facebook by liking here
Are you into Hackathons?? Me too! Read more here