Yesterday, I attended a huge professional event, the Salon Entreprendre. A yearly renowned rendez-vous for CEOs, freelancers and starter wannabes, it offered a wide range of conferences, networking opportunities and information from administrative aspects you must comply to to how to get better leads. I attended three of these conferences, one on success stories of women entrepreneurs, one of administrative/financial aspects related to the Belgian framework and a last one regarding late payments. While the first one was extremely inspiring, I learned a lot in the other two. This was the first time I actually attended such an official event of this format (i.e. not a tradeshow, not a workshop, not a pure networking event), and I thought it would be useful to write a little something on the subject!
So, why would you want to attend such an event?
- For me, it was an opportunity to step out of my comfort zone, something I am aiming to do more this year. The size of the event was quite daunting, but it was a nice way to prove to myself that “Hey, even a tiny freelancer like me has a place in the business sphere”.
- To hear that you are not the only one feeling lonely sometimes. In the first conference I attended, one of the speakers (who is also very famous in Belgium) confessed that she felt very lonely sometimes, being the only founder of her business and the only person taking decisions. Strangely, that felt really good and reassuring!
- To meet new people… Thanks to Twitter, I learned about that a Coworking Week was held in Brussels next week. I met one of the co-founders of a coworking space at the event, and I’m set for a tryout next Thursday! (and yes, I’m pretty sure a blog post will come out of this new experience).
- And to reconnect with former acquaintances. I had made plans to meet up with a colleague – we ended up speaking so much that we actually missed a conference we both wanted to attend!
- To learn! The number of conferences organized was simply dizzying and touched on many subjects that could be of interest to anyone thinking of creating their own business or for active freelancers.
A few tips learned the hard way:
- Take a notebook and a pen with you. You never know when you will need to write a useful piece of information that you don’t want to forget!
- Wear comfortable shoes, especially if you’re planning to spend the whole day there! I wanted to go for the whole professional look but bitterly regretted it by the end of the day.
- Try to get your hands on a plan of the premises. The event I attended was spread across three different halls, packed with dozens of booths and with conference rooms on each side. It is definitely a waste of time to wander around, trying to wrap your head around where x should be and why y isn’t where you thought it would be.
- Similarly, plan ahead! Check that the conferences you want to attend don’t clash, have a look at where they are taking place, etc. It’s also useful to have a look at the exhibitors list – to my surprise, SDL had a booth at the event, so I went and said hi and received free popcorn :)!
- Don’t forget your business cards – that’s a given.
Have you attended professional events this year? What are your tips to make the most out of them?