Headed to INBOUND for the first time this year and feeling a bit nervous? Don't worry! We've got some great tips to help you prepare.
1. Register for the event and book your hotel EARLY
This is a huge event, and “seasoned” attendees know that you need to register as soon as possible. This is especially true for hotels in the area — the ones nearest to the venue fill up very quickly!
2. Make a Plan
There are so many different things you can do while at INBOUND! Between the sessions and keynote speakers alone, you’re going to want to make a plan. If you don’t, trust me, you’ll be totally overwhelmed (I made a plan and I was still a bit overwhelmed!).
What I did:
A few days before I left for the event, I went to inbound.com and looked at the schedule. First, I added the keynote sessions to my calendar. Next, I looked at the list of speakers to see who I recognized and made sure to add their sessions to my calendar. After that, I scrolled through the entire list, and without worrying about times just yet, I added everything that sounded interesting to my calendar. Once I reached the bottom of the list, I went back to my calendar and highlighted the key sessions that I wanted to attend.
3. Make a Backup Plan
Unless INBOUND starts to offer pre-registration for the sessions, you’re probably going to end up standing in some long lines only to be turned away at the door (luckily, many of the speakers are willing to do encore sessions when this happens). If you’ve just spent the last twenty minutes standing in line for the only session you blocked out for that timeframe, you’re going to be scrambling to find something else. So prepare for this situation with a backup plan.
What I did:
When I was creating my calendar and got to the step of highlighting sessions I didn’t want to miss, I didn’t delete the other sessions from my calendar. Instead, I kept a backup session in each time slot just in case I showed up to one that was already full.
4. Be aware of the bathrooms
Just like halftime at a sporting event, everyone rushes to the bathroom all at once. If you see a huge line, try to find a different bathroom. They have them all over the place at the expo. And better yet, make sure to check to see if the family bathrooms are unlocked.
Extra tip: Use the bathrooms on the left hand side of the room with the huge stage that the keynote speakers use, rather than leaving Club INBOUND and getting into a massive line at the bathrooms outside.
5. Wear comfortable shoes
The expo center is huge! You’re going to be running all over the place to get to each session. Heels may look nice, but comfortable shoes are key. Trust me. Your feet will thank me.
What I did:
I actually packed an extra pair of sneakers, although I was only planning to wear one set. It was nice to switch things up when my feet got tired of my Chucks. Blasphemy, I know! But there is truly an incredible amount of walking. You’d be surprised how quickly your trusted pair begin to hurt your feet.
6. Prepare a bag that you can comfortably carry with you each day
Not only should this bag be comfortable for you to carry and be large enough to hold everything you will need, it should also close completely.
A few things you are going to want to carry with you include:
- Wallet and other key personal items,
- Laptop and charger,
- Cell phone and charger cables,
- An external cell phone charger,
- A small notebook and pen,
- Plenty of business cards,
- A snack.
In addition to these items, you’ll also want some space for things you pick up, like books, t-shirts, or other goodies from various vendors in Club INBOUND.
What I did:
Here is a photo of most of what I packed in my bag for my first trip to INBOUND:
Aziz was one of the celebrity speakers, so of course I packed his book to keep me busy during any down time! Not pictured: my laptop, notebook, and tylenol. The bag I chose was an oversized purse. However, because something was stolen out of it during one of the sessions, I am planning on bringing a backpack this year instead.
7. Don’t work during the sessions
I know, it’s wicked hard to step away from the office. But you are attending each session to learn, not to work. If you cannot be respectful of the speaker and the attendees around you, please leave the session and find another place to work. Not only is it rude not to pay attention to the speaker, all of the key clacking and rapid clicking can be very distracting to others
8. Be friendly and open to conversation
This is the most important tip I can give. I am an extremely shy person, but when I first attended INBOUND I really made an effort to go into each session, sit next to someone who looked friendly, and try to start up a conversation. I was shocked to discover that many people weren’t interested in chatting and that some were actually quite rude about it.
Of course this could have happened for a number of reasons; they might have been cramming in work before the session started, they could have been tired, they may have been shy like me, et cetera. But just be aware that half of the reason many people attend Inbound is to network and make connections. So try not to close yourself off.
Whether you are attending INBOUND for the first time or returning for another year, I hope these tips were helpful!
Will Shay and I see you this year at INBOUND? Let us know in the comments section below!