After the Gold Rush: Getting the most out of big events

Written by Daniel Evans

So last week, here in Birmingham, it was the annual Birmingham Tech Week organised by the team at TechWM. Since 2019, Tech Week has been a major event on the local tech ecosystem’s calendar – bringing everyone together for a week-long celebration of the sector, insightful discussions, announcements and of course plenty of opportunity to network. This year was bigger and better than ever. Across the whole week the standard of events was particularly high and it really feels like Birmingham (& the West Midlands) is riding a wave of momentum at the moment – a real gold rush…

However, as with any major event, conference or expo, you walk away with a lot of buzz and excitement with the new contacts you’ve made and the insight gained. You arrive back at your desk when it’s all over and now comes the most critical part – the follow ups. To really get the most out of these events, the following up and post-event work is what makes the difference between you just having a fun week vs getting the very most out of it. Afterall, you’ve made that investment of time to step away from the ‘real work’ for a period of time to attend event(s) so now is the time to get your return. Whether a whole week long event or a day conference – the same rules apply! 

How can you make sure you get the most out of your experience? Well, we’ve got some practical tips to help you do just that!

1. Tidy Up Your Notes

Your notebook’s probably filled with a mix of doodles, inspirational quotes, and some half-baked ideas. I currently have some notes in my notebook, a few bullet points on the notes on my phone, as well as a couple of photos taken from slides, and a diagram I’ve scribbled down on the back of a flyer. Take a moment to sort through them, highlight the real gems, and maybe even rewrite some messy notes so you can make sense of them later on.

2. Play Favourites with Contacts

Unless you really kept to yourself, you’ve probably got a stack of business cards and a LinkedIn feed full of new connections. I absolutely hate saying this as every connection and relationship you gain is of value, however we all have limited time on our hands so you can’t and shouldn’t have a follow up meeting with everyone. Not all contacts are created equal, so think about which ones are worth your follow-up effort. Prioritise the ones who could make a big difference in your professional life. However, I would suggest just dropping the other ones, even a quick note saying something like “it was lovely to connect – look forward to staying in touch!” where your time allows. Afterall, relationships aren’t only important for people that you can offer immediate value to – you never know where you’ll both be in the future! 

Business Card Top Tip – I always kept having trouble with business cards as I’d look at them and try to remember why we were going to connect. Someone told me to write on the back of the business card a little note about what you talked about/why you are connecting and this really helped to make sure I knew what I was following up on! 

3. Keep it Personal

When you reach out to those new connections, make sure your messages aren’t copy-paste templates. Mention something specific you talked about during the event. A little personal touch goes a long way. We are here to build quality relationships, not to try and connect to as many people as possible. 

4. Know Your Goals

This is kind of a tip to think about beforehand but before you even set foot at the conference, figure out what you want to get out of it. Whatever it is you are looking for, knowing your goals helps you make the most of the event. It is also going to help you at this follow up stage to filter and spend time with the right focus. 

5. Teach What You’ve Learned

Want to really cement that knowledge? Teach it to someone else. Sharing your newfound wisdom with colleagues or online communities reinforces what you’ve learned. It could be as simple as writing a LinkedIn article about what you’ve learned during the week/event. It is also a great tool for reflection and consolidation. 

6. Put It Into Action

This one seems pretty obvious but it needs to be said. Hearing all this great insight is only really useful if you do something about it. Picked up a tip that you thought could improve something you are doing? Great – time to look at how you are going to implement this! Maybe sit for an hour or two this week and think about what was picked up and what changes you might make as a result. Be purposeful in this and take action. 

7. Join the Online Buzz

Many events have some sort of online presence. Engage with it! It’s a great way to keep the discussion going, ask questions, and access resources shared during the event. It also acts as a visibility piece – for example if you are positioning yourself as an expert in a particular field, letting your online network know that you were present and engaged at a known event in your field is an important marketing exercise! 

8. Stay in the Loop

Don’t close the chapter on the event just yet. Keep an eye out for post-event content and updates. Many large events will run smaller engagements throughout the year. Additionally, are there ways to deepen your engagement next year to get more out of the event? Perhaps speaking opportunities or similar? 

9. Reflect and Adapt

After the dust has settled, take a breather and think about how the event went for you. Did you benefit & events like this are worth your time again in the future or do you need to look at different types of events? This is really going to depend on what you are doing, how you are approaching it and whether you are implementing the steps like the ones above to really maximise your return from time spent at an event. 

Conferences and events like Birmingham Tech Week are all about making connections, gaining knowledge, and growing in your field. However, we could spend a lot of time at events which could become a distraction and not really add any value to us or our business. We need to be strategic and purposeful to get the very most out of any events or engagements that we are investing time into to make them worthwhile for us. Never think that you have to go to every single minute of every single event or don’t think that you have to go because everyone else is. To make the most of these experiences, follow these tips. They’ll help you leverage the knowledge and contacts you’ve gained, and make sure your journey keeps moving forward.

Congratulations to the TechWM team on a very successful Birmingham Tech Week. We are looking ahead to BTW 2024 already! The next big event for the team here at BEC will be two sets of awards in the following weeks (Innovation Awards & Birmingham Awards), followed by the Annual National Enterprise Network Conference and Awards next month – one of the highlights and most important events on the enterprise support calendar. See you there!

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