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Looking To An Eventful Season

The conference circuit is getting a kickstart

Mary Kay Scully headshot
Mary Kay Scully
Mortgage event, professionals at the New England Mortgage Expo
The New England Mortgage Expo, by Originator Connect Network

Last month, we discussed going back to the office – what to do and how to do it – but now we’re seeing more businesses and organizations open their doors to full capacity. This fall, conference season will be in full swing, or at least close to it – many of them for the first time in well over a year. With this, you may have to get out of your comfort zone on an even larger scale than just the office.

For some, this is the news they’ve been waiting for and they already have their bags packed for the first in-person event of the season. Others, however, may be curled up in their pajamas in their home office, dreading a return to the outside world. Regardless of where you sit on the remote work/100% in-person environment spectrum, there are quite a few aspects of event season to keep in mind.

How To Be An Attendee

It’s been quite a while since many of us have been to a live in-person event, so it’s time to refresh everyone’s memory on all that goes into attending events, conferences and business gatherings.

When attending a conference, the first thing to think about is transportation. Do you need to hop on a plane? If so, make sure you’re familiar with your company’s travel policy, as well as your own comfort level when it comes to flying post-pandemic. Will you need to rely on public transportation? Think about if or how you would approach a train, bus, or shuttle. The best plans for a great conference experience are no good if getting there is difficult or impossible.

Now, once you arrive, you may want to ask yourself how do you want to approach mingling with other attendees? Are sharing cocktails and going out to dinner with customers and colleagues a must-do, or does it elicit a hint of anxiety? If there are any common gathering spaces, do you feel comfortable interacting there, or would you prefer to keep to yourself? In the moment, it’s easy to feel pressured to step outside your comfort zone. 

Having a plan in place before you touch down will help you not only stick to the plan, but it also will help you interact with others in the way that’s most comfortable for you. The same goes for any company policy. Depending on your organization, there may be rules for how you should interact with people as you go to events, so make sure you’re familiar with your company’s health and safety policy so you don’t run the risk of stepping outside of those policies.

Beyond simply meeting people, think about how you will network. Now, people will be far less likely to exchange physical business cards. LinkedIn has QR codes that allow users to connect digitally instead of having to rely on passing out business cards. With that in mind, take some time in advance of your upcoming events to update your social media profiles and websites.

What’s Next For Vendors?

As a vendor, it’s important to decide how you will facilitate interaction at your booth. Think about what your booth will look like. Will there be more room for people to spread out or will you plan to limit the number of people at your booth at once? Will there be items, papers, or tchotchkes people will touch? In the past, I’ve seen everything from massage chairs to standing money boxes for people to climb into, and everything in between. Even if less extravagant, still most vendors, if not all of them, may have small gifts and branded prizes to entice conference-goers to spend time at their booth. If people do not feel comfortable loading up their bags with prizes or papers, ask yourself how you might engage with them otherwise? Think about how you can still provide conference attendees a great experience that’s completely touch-free.

Another question to ask yourself as a vendor is, how will you meet one-on-one with prospects? Will private meeting rooms still be your go-to or will you opt for outside meetings? Will you have one-on-one meetings at all? All are valid questions to ask and determine as you plan for your next event.

As someone who hosts conferences, Vince Valvo, CEO of American Business Media LLC, firmly believes in following CDC guidelines and that “conferences are for networking and growing your skill set, but none of that matters if you’re not healthy. Safety comes first and you’re better in health.”

Preparation Is Key

While it’s still hard to say what this fall’s conferences will look like, it’s safe to expect that many traditional conference experiences have changed, but it’s also possible that some have stayed the same. Either way, take some time developing your own plan based on your comfort level and how you’d like to navigate certain situations.

No matter how they look, it’s exciting to see events coming back. Enjoy your time, make the most of it and, most importantly, be safe. I hope to see you out there!

Close more loans, be more efficient, stay out of trouble.

Find more at Pro School
This article was originally published in the NMP Magazine August 2021 issue.
Mary Kay Scully headshot
Mary Kay Scully

Mary Kay Scully is the Director of Customer Education at Enact, leading the development of the company’s customer education curriculum. The statements in this article are solely her opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of Enact or its management. 

Published on
Aug 05, 2021
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