Every year around Australia, there are many business conferences and trade conferences, in fact there are over 400,000 every year! They take place in cities like Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne, Hobart, Gold Coast, Canberra, Darwin, Adelaide and Sydney and people from around the country and even beyond attend them. It’s not enough to just attend a conference though, it’s important to actually get something out of it. That way it’s worth the time and expenses that go into attending such a business event.

The good news is that there are things you can do to prepare for your next conference, and they will help ensure that you get the most out of it every time. Since there are so many conferences and business events throughout Australia, it’s important to be selective when it comes to choosing which ones to invest in. And make no mistake, attending conferences is an investment. It’s a good idea to know what you want to get out of attending it before you even go, so you can be sure you are picking the right ones to invest in. Whether it’s trade knowledge or to network with key people, keep those goals in mind when selecting which ones to register for. Once you know which conferences you will be attending, it’s time to do a little prep work so that you go in ready.

Here are 5 ways to professionally prepare for your next conference:

1. Network preparation.
Being able to network at conferences should be a high priority. To help network professionally, be sure to have great business cards on hand, as well as a professional permanent name badge. Opt for a name badge that stands out and makes a statement, helping your name to be unforgettable. A high quality name badge is crucial when attending a business conference.

2. Polish your speech.
You will have many opportunities to speak to people, but at times it may be brief. Take the time now to come up with a branding statement that is short and sweet and will help the person remember you. Also, think of an opening statement or two that you can use as an ice breaker to get conversations started. Having these things in your mind ahead of time will give you quick access to the words when you need them. You don’t want to be sitting there not knowing what to say or how to get the conversation started. A couple of standard lines or questions can open the doors to lasting conversations with many different people.

3. Get in the right mindset.
When you attend a conference, you need to have the type of attitude that seems approachable. This means you need to be relaxed, friendly, and not seem rushed and stressed. Start by putting your phone away and silencing it, and doing some breathing exercises before going in, which will help you to relax. Put a smile on your face and look like you are friendly, open and want to talk to people.

4. Manage your schedule.
Managing your schedule ahead of time will help ensure you are not worried about what’s going on back at the office. This will help you relax more and be able to be more mindful of what’s going on around you. Plan ahead to ensure your focus is completely on the event and the opportunities there, rather than what you are missing back at the office; you never know who you might meet!

5. Know your follow-up plan.
Before you even attend the conference, know what you will do to follow up with the people you meet there. That way, when you get back to the office you can immediately put that plan into action with the contacts you made. Get business cards from each person, and get started connecting with them right away. Connect with them on Linked In or send a friendly follow up email.

Business conferences and corporate events are great ways to help gain exposure for your business. It’s an ideal place to network and gain new knowledge that can be put to use in your field. But those things are only going to happen when people are well prepared when they attend an event. When you are going in fully prepared, you will feel more confident and ready to engage with others, so you can get a lot out of the experience.

It can be daunting attending a conference, especially if you don’t know anyone there! If you have a plan especially with a couple of ice breakers to get talking, you will feel much less nervous at the event. Don’t forget, others there will probably be feeling just like you do! If it’s your first conference, expect that not everything will be perfect or work out quite as planned. But it’s also a learning experience. Use that time to take notes on what you should do differently for the next one. You can usually attend the same trade conferences each year, so you can rest assured knowing that you will be well prepared for the next one. Use your first conference attendance as a learning experience on what conferences are like and what you will want to do at the next one.