Updated for NADA 2015

A comical yet essential list of conference survival tips recently updated for NADA 2015.

“I have every new hire read this blog before attending a conference.” Jim Flint, CEO Local Search Group.

I have attended 30+ events in 3 years and combined the words and wisdoms of the most successful automotive veterans in the space. There’s a lot of power and value in conferences if you do them right. Depending on your conference strategy you can either grow your network and utilize your resources to create professional momentum… Or you can return broke, tired and hung over. So pay attention to my list below, because it won’t steer you wrong.

My Master List for Success and Survival…

Define your objectives. What are the goals of your trip? Is it to learn new ideas, find specific solutions or get motivated. Are you planning to look at products, earn new business, meet new people, or do you just want to go on a trip and have your company pay for it? Whatever you agenda, clearly define what you hope to achieve.

Go in with a game plan. Write down what you want to accomplish and whom you want to meet. Circle the sessions you want to attend, and then leave yourself time to meet with new companies. Know what you are in the market for, whether it’s a new CRM, website, third party lead provider, SEM, phone system, live chat, etc. Stay focused on your goals because once you get into the conference its mayhem, a whole gang of ex-car sales people trying to get the attention of other car people. In other words, don’t chase digital shiny things.

Write things down. FACT: You WILL forget most of what you learned. Unless you take the time to write down what you know was important and what you plan to put in place as soon as you get back home. Forget your pages full of notes and your pocket full of business cards. Write a “To Do List” of goals and tasks, as bullet points are the way to go. If you are sending an employee, require them to give a presentation to the rest of the company on what they have learned. Use applications like Evernote to combine your digital & mobile notes in one place.

Summit Stalking. Stalking is creepy, but tracking people that want to be found is acceptable. For example, turn on Facebook’s Nearby friends. In my home city, I leave this feature off. I don’t need to know my friends’ whereabouts on an hourly basis. At conferences, I use it like a fish-finder for my friends. I can see where everyone is clustering. Other suggestions are to post on Foursquare, LinkedIn, Trip It and Twitter. Create a “favorites” thread using the events hashtag so you can stay current with attendees’ tweets.

Maximize your exposure. Attend as many workshops as possible, meet as many people as you can and preview as many technologies as you can absorb. Don’t forget to get out and meet people they are the biggest reason we gather otherwise we’d do webinars in our pajamas.

The booth babes are paid to flirt with you. I know it’s hard to stay focused when a pretty girl is waving her technology at you, but don’t cave and whatever you do don’t take your pen out to sign anything. Shiny things, remember. Don’t be lured by them.

P.W.I Laws- (Posting while impaired) NEVER drink and social media. Friends don’t let friends tweet while intoxicated. Don’t post from the bar at 2 am if your boss follows you on Twitter. Just to be safe, don’t post anything past 10 pm. Nothing good can come of it.

Do not skip dinner and go straight to drinking root beer vodka from an ice bar. I know this seems like a given, but this list also serves as a reminder of my travesties of events past.

Marriage Protection Insurance. Everything ends up on Social Media so don’t get your picture taken or do anything that your boss, mom or spouse can’t witness. Some wives may not want a picture of you on Facebook in Vegas at 1 am with a girl that has a name synonymous to an adult film star.

You are NOT a Rockstar. Something happens to people when they are in Vegas or other major cities. They get caught up in the whirlwind ofHooklogic limos, good food, and parties. My first conference I thought I could party with the vendors all night and still keep my early morning meetings. Remember, these vendors do a lot of conferences. They are pros. There is NO WAY you can keep up. If you try, you will be in pain. Know your limits. On day one, you’re an energetic superstar… On day three, you look like an extra from the set of Walking Dead.

Friendly Fire. Be a considerate tagger. I always show people the picture I take so they have the first right of refusal. If they hate the picture, I delete it. I also don’t criticize or slam on social media. Digital karma operates faster than the speed of light! Be kind to the ladies, everyone looks younger with an instagram filter

Consider your sources. Be objective when listening to sessions. There is a lot of good content out there, but there also are a lot of people who are motivated strictly to sell their product. Research speakers before you attend. It can save a lot of time.

Stay hydrated. Travel, alcohol, and sleep deprivation can take its toll. Here are some sustaining secrets of the Pro’s. Sean Peoples got me hooked onOnIt180 it keeps you hydrated, alert and increases your immune system. Will Perry endorses powdered Pedialyte, it’s more effective than Gatorade and prevents hangovers. If neither are in reach go for Coconut water.

Eat healthy! I am the worst at this. I found myself surviving the weekend on granola bars and five-hour energy drinks. There is a lot to do, so be sure you eat a hearty meal at least once a day. I order room service the night before. $25 for Coffee, fruit, bagel, and bottled water seems like a lot, but its more effective than a wake up call and gives me a few immediate essentials.

Barbie Feet: Avoid high heels. Ladies, I get it! This is a tough one that I can’t even commit to. When you are only five feet tall, you’re tempted to endure the pain to offset your vertical disadvantage. Plus what’s the point of having a closet of cute shoes if you can’t wear them when it counts. I just remember after one event when my friend Kate, and I took of our heels after 16 hours and our feet were molded into plastic Barbie feet. IF you are going to wear heels pack foldable flats in your clutch, so you don’t find you sneaking into the hotel barefoot and blistered. Since this rule doesn’t pertain to the majority of automotive conference goers let’s de-gender this tip to say: “wear comfortable shoes.”

Calendar Overload. There is only so much time in the day so don’t pack in more than you accomplish. Manage your meetings and commitments carefully, this goes pack to proper planning. Schedule the times and locations in your Calendar.

Peak Performance. Work your optimal times. Example: 3pm you are least retentive, this is a good time to rest for your second wind. I also know that my ability to give sh*t decreases as time goes on. Day 1, I want to solve all of the worlds problems by day 3 I am not sure I even brushed my hair.

Mints.Mints.Mints. When you are trying to network in a small area and you lean in close to hear someone, if you smell like yesterday’s cocktail hour and coffee you may not be conveying the long lasting impression you are hoping to achieve. This is my pet peeve, be cognitive of your choices! Pass on the pesto, don’t even look at the garlic bruschetta and I swear if you have baked fish don’t come within a mile of me. I have been known to mace people withBinaca spray.

Am I lost? For events like NADA2015 in San Francisco that are VERY spread out I like using Google My Map’s you can plot all of your key addresses in one spot and share with your team.

Hail a Uber: Its’s official for 2015 taxi’s are out, and Uber is in. Get a taxi, private car or rideshare from your mobile phone. Uber connects you with a driver in minutes and is much less than standard Taxi’s with a better service and no need to pull out your wallet. Want to ride for FREE? Keep an eye out for the Hooklogic free limo code and text to 55678.

Strategic Cocktailing: This is an art form not to be taken lightly. I recently had a client say “April don’t stay out late! Business doesn’t happen after 10pm at the bar.” What? I am pretty sure most of my business comes from the bar. I am social 100% of the time, but many people need to be in a relaxed social setting before they are comfortable getting to know others. Business happens when people connect. So try and RSVP in advance. Look for all the big party promotions and get admission badges at the booths. Big parties are fun but loud, keep in mind that small intimate cocktail parties are great for networking and engaging on a more individual basis.

Befriend the socialites. The Paris Hiltons’ of the event will always be current on conference ongoing. Create a group of well-informed conference buddies that agree to share all the hot spots in exchange for you doing the same.

For example, I know who’s throwing the hottest most exclusive cocktail party at NADA, want in on it? Tweet @digitalrain_inc for invitation requests.

Raiding the free booth prizes. Be sure to do this on day one. That way you’ll be sure to get all the cool phone holders, flashlights, and even teddy bears to bring home to the kiddos. If you wait till the last day, you’ll be leaving with gum and a foam stress ball.

Family Vacation Syndrome. Trying to keep track of your group can drive you crazy. If you get sucked into other people’s agendas, you’ll miss opportunities to do the things you wanted to do. If you are traveling with a group, meet for an early morning coffee/breakfast then divide and conquer. Regroup early afternoon and then split up before finally reconvening at the evening spot.

Power Management. Charge your phone at every opportunity. It is the worst to be disconnected in the evening just as you are trying to locate everyone. I always bring at least two backup batteries.

The Naked Salesman. I am just worried I have lost you by now, so I am making my titles more creative. This is all about dressing the part. Always dress for success. People will never fault you for looking too nice. But if you look like a slob it will impact peoples’ perception of how you do business. You never know who you will meet, so I believe it’s always better be safe than sorry. I know it’s inconvenient, but if it helps make you a good impression then suck it up.

I’m sorry I forgot your name. Hashtag awkward! Unless you are a savant, it’s impossible to remember so many people’s names but don’t make that your excuse. Download an app like ScanCard Biz or many others and scan people’s business cards each day from your phone.

Prêt-à-Porter. (ready to wear). For all the ladies Packing takes intensive strategic and planning skills. You need to be comfortable, yet professional, prepared to go from conference hall neon lights to five star dinners when there is no time to change. My first two big events It cost $120 to check my 70pd luggage so now its about simplifying. For evenings the black casual cocktail dress is priceless. I will inevitably spill something on myself at the beginning of the night, and the dress helps to camouflage such mishaps. Plus, it’s both dinner and club appropriate. For men, nice jeans and clean, button-up shirt with a sport coat works best. Need good examples? Pinterest for men is trending, even David Metter has fashion board. Once again, I remind you that you are not there to score with girls so go easy on theCreed.

Packing: Here’s my quick checklist of useful items you may forget about: Puffy eye cream for the sleep deprived, a huge stack of business cards, Dry shampoo, Tylenol, Vitamins, note paper, pens, cash, breath mints and five hour energy shots.

Late planner? If even after all of these cautionary tales you are inspired to attend NADA2015 please note most hotels are booked and what’s left is very high priced but check AirBnB, I got a 2 bedroom apt next to the center for less than many hotel rooms.

Disclaimer: I am neither trained nor certified in conferencing attending. Therefore, follow my tips at your own risk. In fact, I have no real credibility here (except a whole lot of experience), so I am not responsible for any negative consequence you receive as a result of taking my tips. I will, however, gladly accept credit for the good things that happen if you do.

I look forward to seeing you.

April Rain

Comment