“How to Get the Most Out of a Tourism Conference”

When July 1 starts, it marks the beginning of a new fiscal year for most destination marketing organizations. A new fiscal year means new ideas, new strategies and new travel conferences.

Travel conferences are where we learn more about our industry, our roles within our organizations, make business decisions and learn about innovative practices. It’s where you can make a name for yourself in the industry or figure out that this job ain’t for you!!! But before we get heavy into the travel season, I wanted to offer up some advice that is applicable to the first-time conference attendee as well as the industry veteran.

Here are seven tips to help you get the most out of your next tourism conference:

1 | Network with 3 new people. Nothing makes a job easier and an industry smaller than making connections. You don’t have to be the life of the party, but you need to make connections. Connections help you in your current role, give you advice on your future roles, allow you to vent about issues in your organization, and help inspire and motivate you for greatness. These connections also make conferences just fun in general, as you’ll never be left without a lunch date, dinner date or drinks date.

2 | Pay extra for the pre-conference workshop. Most conferences offer up a workshop that takes place prior to the actual conference itself to help attendees grow in their respective roles within their organizations. These workshops put you in a learning environment with a trained instructor and your peers. So instead of paying for professional development in your local market, see if the conference you are attending is offering up a similar experience.

3 | Come early or stay late. I believe that some of the best learning comes from observation. As a destination marketer, you can learn a lot about your own destination simply from taking in the sights and sounds of your conference destination. Book a tour, visit an attraction or take in some type of experience that not only will inspire you, but will also give you some insight into how you can help your own destination grow.

4 | Don’t be a hermit. DO. NOT. GO. TO. YOUR. ROOM. EVERY. NIGHT. This is a cardinal sin of conference attendees, especially those who may not know anyone or are attending a conference for the first-time. The tourism industry is one of the friendliest industries to be a part of, so it will be quite easy for you to make friends. Attend the opening celebration, join in on a vendor-sponsored dinner, or simply hang out by the bar. Making friends is half the fun in tourism!

5 | Meet and explore 1 new vendor. Conferences are made possible by the investment that vendors pay to attend and sponsor speakers, sessions, dinners and other conference amenities. It is also your chance to meet someone who provides a service that could be beneficial to your organization. Whether you are in the market or not for a new vendor, it always helps to keep your options open and explore new opportunities. Some of these new vendors, thanks to technology, will blow your mind, so give them a chance to do it.

6 | Go talk to a speaker. Speaking from experience, not all tourism conferences pay their speakers, and not all speakers are nationally-known. Most speakers come from within the industry, so they have the great insight. And most speakers are your peers, and are choosing to volunteer their time to put together a presentation. Nothing is more lonely as a speaker than to not get any feedback from conference attendees, who are your peers. And there isn’t an easier connection to make than with a speaker who has knowledge about a subject that you have a passion for.

7 | Share your comments and thoughts. Not all conferences are great. Not all speakers are awesome. But none of that can change unless you give your feedback. Please fill out conference surveys, interact on social media with conference hashtags and let the conference organizers know that you appreciate them and all of their hard work. The best conferences have the most engaged conference attendees, make yourself one of them and help a conference become great.

Best of luck!

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