Last year, I entered the Hilton Chicago to embark on my very first Midwest Energy Solutions Conference. Being new to the MEEA staff, I gleaned a lot of good advice from colleagues, but there was nothing like experiencing the conference full-on for the first time.
Whether you’re an MES veteran or a first-timer, here are a few tips for getting the most out of your conference experience:
- Business Cards: MES is one of the industry’s best networking events, so bring plenty of business cards. Whether you are an entry level staff member or a CEO, there is always going to be an exchanging of cards and information. You don’t want to be the person writing information down on a cocktail napkin because you weren’t prepared. So, grab a handful and throw them in your bag before you head to Chicago. I promise you won’t regret bringing them.
- Comfortable Shoes: I like fashion as much as the next fashionista, but there is a sweet spot where fashion meets comfort. You want to look professional and well put together, but you don’t want to have blisters at the end of the night. So, find something that you don’t mind standing in for a couple of hours during the cocktail receptions or walking in for a few blocks to attend a dinner.
- Check out the Vendors: For me, visiting the vendor booths in the Exhibit Hall was a great way to put a face to the names that I’d been hearing during my time in the industry. If you’re already familiar with the companies exhibiting, it’s a great way to learn about the new products and programs they offer. Either way, I find that most people really enjoy taking a stroll around the Exhibit Hall to meet with the vendors. It’s also a great way to network and get the answers for the new MES Trivia Game.
- Don’t be Afraid of the “Higher-Ups”: Speaking of networking, often people are intimidated by those who are executive level. While it’s understandable to be a tad nervous, don’t let it prohibit you from networking. Just about everyone in attendance is at MES for the same reasons: They all come to learn and meet new people. If you followed the advice from tip #1, then you’ll already have your business cards ready. So, share that business card and stay in touch! It is always smart to build and expand your personal network within this industry.
- Download the MES App: Just do it! It’s fun and a great way to stay connected. You can easily access maps and agendas and get to know your fellow attendees. Plus, it’s a great conversation starter during the hallway breaks and happy hours. Download it free for iPhone and Android.
- Attend Auxiliary Events: Join the MEEA staff and other attendees for some early morning yoga or a run through downtown Chicago. Don’t forgot to attend one of the new workshops and going to the receptions is a must. We’ve planned all of these things with you in mind. It’s a great way to make connections with people outside of a formal setting and another way to build your network.
- Don’t be Afraid to Ask Questions: Remember that everyone is there to help each other learn, grow and swap ideas, so don’t be intimidated. Head up to the mic during a panel and ask for clarification—it makes the presenters feel as if they’ve been heard, and if you have that question, chances are others do as well. If you have logistical questions about where a session is or what’s happening next, MEEA staff are all friendly people who are there to help you get the most out of the conference. Just ask.
- Download the Official MES 2018 Playlist: Here at MEEA we have not one, but TWO in house DJs and we’ve compiled a list of sonically-pleasing songs that reference energy to listen to while you make your way to Chicago. Find the Spotify playlist here and travel safely!
- Have Fun: Don’t forget to have fun, make friends and (yep, you guessed it) network. Be yourself and come ready to make some new connections. Here at MEEA, we like to think we’re a fun group, and we want everyone to walk away feeling as if they’ve gotten something worthy out of the conference, made a few new friends and have a few hearty laughs.
These are all tips that I’ve gathered from my first year at MES, along with some advice from my peers. This is the Sweet 16 for MES, let’s make it a year to remember!