At the end of this month, savvy email marketers will be trekking to New Orleans for the Email Evolution Conference 2016. Will you be one of them? If so, let’s talk about how to prepare so you can get the most out of the event.
And prepare you should. After all, you’re taking days away from the office, someone will have to cover for you, there’s the cost of the conference and hotel and meals and travel…it’s a big investment of time and money for you to attend. Treat it as such and maximize your payoff by following these suggestions.
Prepare ahead of time
You’ll get more out of the EEC conference if you change your mindset about it to one of preparation rather than expectation. Instead of expecting the conference to provide you with all kinds of new information to take back to the office and implement, prepare for the conference instead. That way you’ll learn what’s most useful to you and your organization, and you’ll learn it in a targeted as opposed to buckshot kind of way.
Think about it: You’re going to a two-day conference with pre-conference workshops, 17 sessions and four keynotes, plus vendor booths and networking time. You’re going to be exposed to a lot of new information and new people—and I mean a lot.
Without a game plan in place, you risk being overloaded with all of this newfound knowledge and remembering very little of it. In addition, it’s easy to get caught up in learning about “shiny stuff” that’s not relevant or applicable to what’s going on within your organization right now. Follow these five tips and you’ll be well prepared to maximize your time and education:
- Know your challenges, goals, questions
Meet with your team well in advance of the conference. Talk about what’s working and not working. What challenges are you facing? What goals are you striving to achieve? What questions do you want answered? Talk about the issues you’re facing, your plans for the short-term and long-term future, what you do or don’t like about your current technology stack.
After you get everyone’s input, prioritize the questions and concerns that come up, so you’ll be able to focus on the information that’s most relevant to you while you’re at the conference. You might also want to read through our annual ESP guide for additional topics to discuss and learn about.
- Plan your agenda
Study the agenda and plan which sessions you’ll attend ahead of time. If you’re attending the conference with a colleague and concurrent workshops are of interest, divide and conquer. But plan this ahead of time rather than waiting until the day of.
- Come up with questions ahead of time
For each session you plan to attend, figure out what you want to learn and come up with your questions for the speakers ahead of time. It might be your questions are answered during the session. If so, you’ll be tuned in to hear the answers. If not, you’ll be ready to ask. And don’t be shy about asking. The presenters are there to share their knowledge. They want questions from the audience. Plus it could be the question you’re asking is one another marketer wants to ask but is too shy to. So you’ll be helping out a fellow email marketer!
- Set expectations at the office
Before you leave, let the folks at the office know you’ll be offline during the conference. Make sure someone is covering for you, and make sure everyone knows you will only check email and voicemail at the end of each day. (Yes, you can be disengaged during the conference. You need to be.)
- Don’t show up tired
Finally, if possible, get to the conference well rested. Falling asleep during the first day’s sessions is guaranteed to waste your time! Plan your itinerary accordingly. As for getting home, go for broke and go for the red eye. But give yourself some cushion for the travel time to New Orleans.
At the conference
With all that prep work done, you should be well equipped to learn plenty of useful information while at the conference. But there are still a few things you can do to help, including:
- Put your laptop away…and your phone
Although you do need to check emails and voicemails at some point during the day, remove or at least decrease your potential distractions by putting away your laptop and phone. (And you set expectations back at the office already, remember?)
- Give yourself some processing time
Don’t think you’ll get all of your work done in the off hours. Your brain will be fried. You’ll need some time to process and absorb the new information. You’ll be getting a deluge of information thrown at you during the workshops. Take some time to chew on it all.
- Give yourself some networking time
Here’s another good reason not to try and work at the end of the day: You also need to take advantage of the opportunities to network after hours, to expand your sphere of influence. That’s one reason for attending the conference, right?
- Take notes
You absorb information better when you’re taking notes, so plan to do so even if decks will be made available post-conference. It will also help you stay focused on the speakers. Personally, I like to take handwritten notes during the sessions. It helps me to focus on the speaker and absorb the information. That could be a sign of my age, however! If you do better taking notes on your laptop, then pack your laptop. But log out of Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest and every other distraction. Log out of your email too! If you’re using Twitter to track the conference, only check it during breaks. This will be good practice in self discipline!
If you’re headed to New Orleans the end of the month for the Email Evolution event, we hope to see you there! We’ll be at booth 307, and happy to answer any questions you might have about email marketing, technologies or ESPs. Until then, put these suggestions into practice and evolve your own email marketing by maximizing your time at the conference!
Marco Marini, CEO