Attending a conference or exhibition when you are new to the industry can be quite an overwhelming experience. So, we’re sharing some insights from a previous IMEX-MPI-MCI Future Leaders Forum at the SITE + MPI Global Forum to help you prepare for what may be your first time at IMEX in Frankfurt. The most important thing is to remember that everyone has to start somewhere, so don’t feel embarrassed if you make mistakes. Luckily for you, the meetings industry is one the friendliest out there, so you’ve got nothing to feel nervous about!
Hearing from people who’ve been in a similar situation before can encourage you to follow your goals and turn your ideas into reality. From two past Future Leaders Forum participants and a year-long supporter of the Forum we learnt there is more to their achievements than meets the eye. Behind all of their exciting success stories there’s a lot of hard work, challenges and perseverance. Not to mention the less exciting tasks that are rarely talked about. It’s actually these obstacles and diversions that helped them to become stronger and to focus on what’s really important.
Setting priorities and personal goals
How do you navigate a conference if you don’t know what you want to get out of it? There’s so many things going on – education, networking, social events – it’s hard to know how to divide your time. Therefore, it’s important to reflect on your priorities and personal goals to help you to make decisions and find your focus.
At the recent Forum, Jessie States from MPI led a dynamic exercise that let participants first think about their collective goals as conference participants and then put them in order of importance. Then they were asked to identify their own specific goals, by posing the question, “what changes do you wish to see by the end of the conference?”
One top tip was to share your goal with your peers to get some input on what particular activities, sessions or people could help you achieve it. Someone else may be able to make an introduction or recommend a session for you.
Getting in the right mindset
At the same Forum, speaker Amy Infante, reminded us about the benefits of a positive attitude to our performance. We seldom take a step back and reflect on why we chose our career – but this reminds us why we are passionate about it and enjoy it. This can also help you to figure out your goals at the conference and where you are heading in the long-term.
Lots of people dread networking, but facilitated discussions or activities can help you to connect with like-minded people on topics that you’re interested in. At the Forum, we completed a challenge where three Future Leaders presented a pitch for a conference. All of them were passionate about their pitches and their innovative ideas. We asked all other participants to give feedback by sharing the best ideas they have heard in the pitches. In this way, we not only created a library of brilliant ideas but started a discussion around how to make conferences more effective and meaningful. Sharing your ideas and what you’re enthusiastic about can be a great starting point to find common topics with new contacts and make meaningful connections.