Attending my first industry conference

Tips and takeaways from attending Iterable’s Activate London 2019

Steven Sayo

This month I finally had the opportunity to attend my first ever conference! 🎉 Like any good geek, I did my research beforehand. The scariest thought was to be ill-prepared and miss out on something. So I turned to my trusty fellow #emailgeeks. I can’t iterate enough how supportive this community is. Together they compiled a few handy tips that I’d like to share with you.

The Activate 2019 stage

Take a notepad and pen

This may seem like a no-brainer. However, you may get distracted and forget to pack them. I brought them for this conference but, as a nice touch, Iterable provided a goodie bag which included an Iterable branded notepad and pen. It’s like they knew. 👀

It’s worth noting that if you find it easier to take notes on a laptop or even your mobile/cell phone then feel free to do so. Just remember to bring your laptop charger or battery packs in case the inevitable happens and your battery runs out.

Don’t worry about dress code

What to wear was on my mind. Should I suit it and boot it? Are t-shirts too casual? Would a polo shirt be a nice compromise? At the end of the day, you’re going to the conference to learn and gather insights. Conferences are usually all-day events so you need to comfortable.

Take. A. Sweater.

Following on from the last point, take a sweater/jumper/hoodie/cardigan. Whatever your preference, just take one. This is something that caught me out. Unfortunately, I’d already packed my bag and was on my way to the conference when I got this tip.

As conferences house a lot of people in one room the venue tries to keep the room as cool as possible. However, they may not control the temperature in the room constantly which happened at this event. This led to me getting quite cold and uncomfortable in one of the talks. Safe to say I’ve learnt from this mistake.

Author Steven Sayo with Matthew Smith of Really Good Emails

Remember the Pac-Man rule

Our fine yellow friend from the ’80s comes to the rescue. The crux of it is to make sure there is always a space left open for someone to join your conversation. Instead of standing in a circle, you and your group create a Pac-Man shape. Hence the Pac-Man rule. You can read up on this more at Eric Holscher’s blog.

Get out of your comfort zone!

You might not be the most sociable person in the world, but try and talk to as many people as possible. Everyone attending has at least one common interest (the event itself). So many people attend events which can produce an invaluable amount of knowledge bundled up into one place. You could be pleasantly surprised by what you learn not just from the official event talks, but from the attendees as well.

If you’re like me and don’t have business cards, how do you keep the connections you make at the event? I found that people were more than happy to connect on Linkedin. If you prefer to ask people to follow you on Twitter, it’s worth noting another point from the email geeks: Take an audit of your last few tweets to make sure that they are presentable and represent you well.

Final thoughts

It was mentioned that some conferences provide stickers that say, “Talk to me, I’m shy”. I can see the value in these as it would help people break the ice and get the most out of the event. It would be nice to see something like this at Iterable’s next event.

However, I put these tips into practice and found that I made lots of great connections and new friends at this conference and it makes me excited to attend more in the future. Hopefully these tips will help you too! If you’d like to share other tips or let me know how you got on with these ones, you can reach out to me on Twitter.

Special thanks to Laura Atkins, Dylan Smith, and Sean Hinton for sharing your amazing tips and experiences with me.

Steven Sayo is a one-man northern email army working across design, development, strategy, and CRM. He’s also an active email geek and The Duke of #random.