The 2011 NAR Conference & Expo is coming up this week! It’s going to be a full week of marketing, networking, making new friends, re-connecting with old friends, business and a little fun.

The Diverse Solutions Team will be hosting a booth Friday, November 11 – 14th. If you’re attending, we’d love to see you there!

Today, I thought I’d share a few tips on how to prepare for a conference to make the most of your time there…

Making Travel Arrangements:

  • Get the cheapest flight you possibly can. If you’re willing to travel early or take a connecting flight, you may save yourself some money.
  • Find a roommate. Twitter and Facebook are great sources to find someone who needs a roommate. Look for someone else who might be attending the conference and agree to split hotel costs.
  • Double-check for wifi. Having wifi is pretty much a “must” for me. I don’t want to have to pay for it (I find that annoying). I check and then double-check that my hotel has wifi and that I don’t have to charge my card daily in order to access it.

Research:

  • Double-check the conference agenda. What sessions are you interested in attending? Click here to see the agenda for NAR Expo.
  • Use Twitter Search to find people that are talking about the event. In the case of NAR, the hashtag is: #NARannual. This is a great way to connect with people before the event and join in discussions that are happening right then and there.
  • Visit attendees blogs, Twitter streams and Facebook accounts. Do this to do a little background research on them to see what/how they’re doing and what they might be working on. Having a little background on folks is great for a conversation starter and it also gives you some great insight if you’re looking for ways to connect with someone on official business.
  • Make sure you’re up to par on industry gossip. You want to make sure you know what’s affecting people in the industry for the conference you’ll be attending. This falls right back into the whole “doing a little background research.” Have you checked the agenda to see what people seem to be talking about most?
  • Which speakers are you interested in meeting? Maybe you can shoot them a quick email to connect ahead of time? Or at the very least, connect with them on social networks to get acquainted before the conference.
  • If you’re on social networks like Twitter, make a Twitter list of the people that you want to connect with at the conference.
  • Use Plancast to track event/conference festivities. It’s nice to know what’s happening where and who’s going rather than trying to figure things out at the last minute.
  • Consider setting up a Foursquare account so that you can “check-in” at new locations and create opportunities to connect with others. You don’t need a Foursquare account to see where other people are checking in, but if you want to lead the pack, it’s neat to be able to share your location.
  • In addition to the speakers, you’ll want to do a little background research on the sponsors for an event. Read their bio’s, click thru to their websites and read about what they do and what they have to offer. What representatives will be at the event? Do you know them? Can you connect with them ahead of time via Twitter? The goal here is to determine the business value in meeting with them and having something to say once that moment arrives.

Content Preparation:

  • Consider writing a few post-dated blog posts. You’ll be busy whilst at the conference but might still want to capitalize on the opportunity to refer people to your blog and show them some good fresh content. In this case, I’ll be out all week. I have one post set to publish later in the week and will live blog parts of the conference as well.
  • Save your BEST content for the day of the event. You’ll be meeting people, shaking hands and exchanging business cards. People willbe visiting your blog the day of the event and maybe even before. So save up for a great first impression and rock it with an awesome blog post!
  • Think about and blog about conversation starters. What kinds of conversations do you want to have with people at this event? Think about that for a second. Then, consider writing a blog post about it. As people visit your blog to do their “background research” on you, you’ll give them something to think about so that when you both meet, you’ll have something to say. This is also a great way to set the stage for any business opportunities.
  • If you plan on taking photos (and I know I take lots of ‘em), double-check your gear and make sure you’re set to go. Clear your camera so you have free space to take photos of everything and anything. Oh and did I mention double-checking your gear? I’ve forgotten my batter and usb transfer cable before and it’s NOT cool.
  • Make sure your social networking accounts are all updated. My thought is this, your profiles should be consistent across all of your varying social networks. Update your LinkedIn status, your Facebook status and tweet often. We’ll be rocking Diverse Solutions in San Francisco all week, so you can follow us here: @DiverseSolution.
  • If you’re going to live blog the event, make sure that you have everything ready: (laptop, camera, flip-cam, etc.). Are you going to use Ustream? Is the account ready and set to go? How about services like Utterli for on-location interviews? Have that ready to go?

Other Preparation:

  • Order new business cards and have a whole bunch of ‘em at the ready so if someone asks for your card, you have one to give. They don’t have to be all fancied out. I’ve paid $150 dollars to have some designed and printed and I’ve also paid $24 to have a whole box of ‘em delivered via Vista Print. Either one works. So long as you have a way for people to connect with you (including how to connect with you via the interwebs).
  • Email people to connect with them ahead of time. For example, I’ve checked my LinkedIn network to see who’s in Anaheim. Not everyone in Anaheim is going to be at the actual conference but I’d like the opportunity to meet with them nonetheless. So perhaps a tweetup/meet-up is in order. I’ll forward them my agenda and ask them to make some time.
  • Practice your elevator pitch. This is especially the case if you have a business or product to promote. Practice your delivery so that when you present what you do and how you do it, it’s sharp!
  • Practice being confident. To some people, networking comes easy. For others it’s difficult. Either way, WE CAN ALL GET BETTER. We just have to practice being confident. Finding our motivating factors, and practicing our delivery (that elevator pitch).
  • If you don’t meet everyone at the conference it’s not exactly the end of the world. But mind you, it is a unique opportunity to meet with folks that you otherwise won’t meet again in a long time as a result of travel and such. So do put forth the effort to connect with folks. This means open invitations to lunches, coffee and drinks as opposed to private invites.

So there you have it. Some tips/recommendations to making the most out of your next conference. A lot of these things I’ve done and am doing myself. Oh, and if I’ve missed something (another great tip), please do share it in the comments below.

See you at NAR Expo this week! The Diverse Solutions Team will be hosting a booth so be sure to come and say hi 🙂