The New Year’s post – both electronic and physical – appears to have been full of invites for this event, flyers for that exhibition and teasers for those gatherings later in the year that are apparently “not to be missed”. Yet, even if it is for a free to attend event, can you really justify a day out of the office?

Probably, but only if you prepare for it and do your homework; before and after the event. Here’s our five tips to effective event attendance that will help you make the most of those days out of the office.

  1.  Prepare before you attend

It sounds common sense, but few actually do it. It may mean another afternoon ‘off’ while you do some market research, but it will be invaluable in making sure yo get the best out of your attendance at the main event. Check the website of the even you are attending. Download any speakers, exhibitors and attendee lists if available and study them. Are there any you immediately think may have relevancy to you, where you are heading and what you hope to get out of attending the event? Make a note of who they are and where they are. Do some further research about them. What questions would you like to ask them?

  1.  Use the event as a networking tool

Everybody else will be attending for similar reasons, to promote their business, so with people’s minds focused and more like-minded people in one location, make sure you go armed with business cards. Yes they are old school and if people really want to connect having met you they will look you up on Twitter, LinkedIn etc, but you want to avoid that embarrassment factor (and slightly unprofessional feel) when you don’t have a card on you and somebody offers you theirs. Which leads on to point 3…

  1.  Update your social profiles before you go

Either during the event or after, if you have interacted with people there, they will look you up on social media channels. Make sure your Twitter and LinkedIn Profiles are up to date, both in terms of photographs and links and words on the profile, but also posts too. Try to be busy in the lead up to the show too so that people don’t just see your streams come to life during the event. These profiles are effectively your calling card and say a whole lot more about you than a business card ever could which is why people like to check other people out online. Make sure you are as much in control of that as possible.

  1.  Get involved in the social buzz

Every event has a hashtag nowadays for use on Twitter and usually active Facebook pages too. Make sure you join in. Share pictures, enthuse about meetings and don’t forget to use the official hashtag and namecheck the organisers official account too. There is a good chance of a re-tweet then and with all eyes on the official account during the event, your comments and name will then be in the eyeline of some very important and influential customers – another reason to make sure your profiles are up to date.

  1.  Follow-ups are the most important

If you do make connections at an event, don’t let them go cold. You won’t be the only one they will have met and they may not immediately see the benefits of linking with you, so make sure you follow-up soon after the event. Don’t crowd people out, give them space, but equally keep your name at the forefront of their mind. Set-up follow-up meetings or co-ordinate other events you might both be attending to link-up again. Often these connections don’t immediately bring in new business, but over time, trust builds as does understanding of each other’s strengths and can lead to some of the strongest business relationships around.

That’s five but if you wanted a sixth… make sure you enjoy it. If attending and following the above steps is becoming a chore, the event probably isn’t worth it. Events, exhibitions, seminars, workshops: They all offer a great opportunity for you to learn new things, make contacts and market your business, but that success only comes from being prepared and planning to make it all work.