Going anywhere by yourself can be intimidating. Let alone being solo amongst a thousand women!
Recently, I attended Create & Cultivate Seattle. I did a lot of things leading up to an during the conference that helped me make the most of it. Some of it I did intentionally and some I did unknowingly - only realizing how helpful it was really after the fact.
That being said, I'm hoping some of these takeaways I'll be sharing with you below help you get your money's worth (because conferences aren't all that cheap!).
Study the agenda
All conferences are different but for the most part, they have a lot going on. Before attending Create & Cultivate Seattle, I *literally* did some brief research on every single speaker that was going to be there! This is a step you could also (should definitely) do before purchasing your ticket. That way you know if the content they're offering is even something you're interested in understanding more.
When I received my track (sometimes conferences will assign you the discussions you'll be attending), I did even more research on the speakers that were a part of that track! You could also make notes on the people you want to try and approach or even make note of panels you're okay with skipping, so you can check out the pop-up shops instead (or whatever else is going on at the conference you're attending).
Make your own agenda
This may be the most important step if you're serious about making the most out of your time there! Because you may have so many options, really take the time to sit down and write out a personalized agenda for yourself. Take note of all the things you definitely do not want to miss and maybe add another column of things you'd also like to attend if you end up having the extra time for it!
Did you end up seeing some individuals that you would like to try and introduce yourself to during your research stage? Write their names down! Also even take a brief note on what the individual does and why they inspire you. You'll definitely want to do that if you have a long list of people you're planning to try and meet.
Browse social media
Events nowadays typically create their own hashtag! And if they do it ahead of the event, explore that hashtag to see if you could find other people who will be attending too! Maybe you'll find someone you make plans to meet with ahead of time and you're ahead of the game when it comes to meeting people. I found a handful of women doing this and I think I only actually met one or two of them. But we still follow and support one another on social media (both the ones I met and didn't meet).
Be business card ready
Okay. Some people say business cards are outdated but regardless, I always have them on me. Especially if I'm attending an event where "networking" happens and the chances of this or that person remembering my name, contact info, and "title" are slim!
Don't have a business card or even an actual business? Don't sweat it. Head on over to Canva and use one of their templates or check out Moo.com! Put your name and contact info on there and call it a day. Just make sure you have something to hand all the awesome people you'll meet.
Attend the pre-game
Some conferences may have a pre-event before the big day. Some only offer it to VIP. Regardless, do some research and check to see if there's a mixer the night before or something. If there is, definitely go! Yes, even if you're intimidated to go alone. To be honest, I was a little hesitant myself but the thought of meeting someone who ended up miraculously becoming my future business partner motivated me to go. (Hey you never know!)
Create & Cultivate had a "happy hour" the night before and I met a few girls there that I ended up seeing throughout the day of the conference, which was cool because we'd say hi to each other and briefly go over how our days were going. Plus I still keep in touch with some of them on social media!
Pay attention to the pre-event emails
I am so happy that I took advantage of the shuttle that Create & Cultivate offered via *email. (Make sure you're checking and reading all the emails the conference sends you if they're doing that sort of thing). The Create & Cultivate Seattle conference itself was actually located in town right outside of Seattle, so I saved myself from a couple expensive Uber rides. Not only that but I actually also met my conference buddy in there!
Create a conference buddy
This isn't required. Totally optional. And also totally not guaranteed to happen. Your "conference buddy" is basically the person you randomly end up meeting, connecting with, and spending the day(s) together! I lucked out. Though, I totally would've been fine having not found a buddy because I wasn't expecting to. But I will say it was awesome experiencing it with someone I had just met and debriefing all the panels right after we saw them. As mentioned, I met her on the shuttle on my way there! We clicked, found out we were on the same track, and (without verbally expressing it) decided to conquer the day as a unit.
Venture away from your conference buddy
Although it is awesome to find someone you click with enough to experience the event together... you still want to give yourself the opportunity to meet and network with other people! Conferences are cool because you and all the other attendees have similar interests. So allow yourself to click with multiple people by straying away from your conference buddy every now and then.
Jocelyn is an event planner and writer currently creating in Tucson, Arizona with an affinity for Hip Hop, food, travel and storytelling. Bienvenido!