By Clark Lagemann
I recently had the chance to attend two polar opposite events. The first was a more intimate affair—a gathering of fewer than 50 Inc 5000 award winners. The other, the Build Summit, was a large-scale conference, teeming with around 500 entrepreneurs. Despite the different scales and atmospheres, one thing remained constant: the need for clear, actionable goals.
You see, attending events without a game plan is like stepping onto a basketball court without knowing how to dribble—you might enjoy the atmosphere, but you won’t score any points. With the pace of life as a founder, CEO, and not to mention family commitments, time is of the essence. Each event I attend has to deliver value, be it through the wisdom of speakers or the forging of new relationships.
Learning from Speakers
If your aim is to glean insights from speakers, be specific about your objectives. Don’t just sit back and passively absorb; actively listen and jot down key takeaways. Personally, my goal is always to unearth at least five actionable insights that I can apply in my business or personal development.
If networking is the name of the game, start with speed and narrow down to quality. Initially, you want to meet as many people as possible to gauge who you vibe with. But numbers aren’t everything; the endgame should be to convert these initial meetings into meaningful relationships. Here’s a pro tip: aim to connect with X number of people and out of those, target to turn at least Y into lasting, fruitful relationships.
Follow-Up Is Key
One of the most underrated aspects of attending any event is the follow-up. If the event hosts delighted you, make it known—your feedback might shape future events. If a speaker impressed you, reach out and tell them exactly what you gained from their talk. Offer ways you might be able to bring value to them in return. As for the attendees, consider connecting them forward. Is there someone in your network who they should absolutely meet? Facilitate that.
A Cautionary Note
I’ve fallen into the trap of attending events just for the sake of it. When you’re wearing multiple hats as an entrepreneur and trying to balance family life, that’s a rookie mistake. Attending an event without clearly defined goals is like throwing time and opportunity out the window.
The Bottom Line: Get Real or Stay Home
Let’s cut through the noise. Everything I’ve said here, you already know it. Admit it—your gut’s been telling you to plan, strategize, and follow through at these events for ages now. So why haven’t you?
The most fearless step you can take is jotting down your goals and sharing them. Share them with your team, or better yet, with a mentor. This isn’t just about being accountable; it’s about being brutally honest with yourself. Will you really gain or give value at this event? If the answer isn’t a resounding “Yes,” maybe you shouldn’t even be going.
Here’s my challenge to you: Next time you’re thinking about attending an event, write out your goals, and share them. It’s not just a way to hold yourself accountable—it’s the ultimate litmus test for whether or not an event is even worth your time.