“Do you have any tips for a first timer attending ICON?”
I attended my first ICON back in 2012, as a brand new Infusionsoft employee. And I’ve been every year since, and have been fortunate enough to speak at the last three (a snippet from 2014 and 2015, and a recap from 2016). I’ve attended both as an employee, and now also as a partner, and someone relying on Infusionsoft to run my business.
As such, I thought I’d share a few tips for making the most out of your ICON experience:
1. Set Goals
If you just sit back and wait for ICON to “happen” you’ll probably have a good time, and you’ll probably learn a few things; but you certainly won’t get as much out of it as you could. Spend some time before the conference thinking about what you’d like to walk away with – are you looking to make strategic connections, are you looking to focus on one specific part of your business, are you hoping for product training, etc. The more targeted you can get with your approach to the conference, the more it’ll deliver in return.
2. Visit the Expo
The expo area is where all the ICON sponsors are set up, and it’s usually centrally located so that you walk past it, or through it, as you’re navigating the conference. Yes, many of these people have something for sale, and it can be tempting to pull out your phone and pretend to check your messages in hopes that you don’t have to have a conversation, but hang on – we all need to remember that these businesses are all there because they solve a problem. Every partner who sponsors ICON offers a service, or software, or a solution to an articulated point of pain that real Infusionsoft users were struggling with. They do, or they wouldn’t be in business. So take a moment to check out the various solutions that are on display and see if there isn’t something that could make your life simpler, or your business more efficient.
3. Download the App
Yeah, there’s an ICON app, and you should download it. It makes it easy to track and plan an agenda, connect with other attendees, and vote for ALU in the Small Business ICON award. I say that sort of tongue in cheek, because I’m sure all three finalists are very deserving, but for real – I’ve been working with the African Leadership University for the last twelve months, and if their story compels you then I know they’d appreciate your vote!
4. Keep an Open Mind
This one is kind of obvious – but if you go into this event already having decided how or where it’s going to be valuable, then it’s very possible that you’ll completely miss something that could have been a game changer for you. All I’m suggesting is that you keep an open mind. In reflecting on my conference-going history I find I’m regularly impressed that some of the most valuable sessions I’ve attended were the ones that I stumbled into at the last minute, or even mistakenly, and not the one I had starred on the program ahead of time.
5. Save some Space to Network
Listen, ICON can be exhausting, as any conference can. But this is literally the largest Infusionsoft assembly on the planet. There are thousands of people who all have something in common – and the more you’re able to connect with the other attendees, the more likely you are to learn something, or forge a meaningful relationship that changes the future of your business, or the way you think about it. I’m not saying you need to stay out all night drinking lemon-drop martinis (though you certainly can), but I am saying that you should be open to connecting with people, going out to dinner with someone you meet, or attending one of the many networking functions hosted by the community surrounding this event.
6. Take Notes with Context
Take notes – obviously. But make sure to also include context for these notes. I don’t know about you, but I’ve certainly had my fair share of ideas where I think to myself “I’ll definitely remember that” and then later I recall I had an idea, but I don’t remember what it was – well, this underscores the importance of writing things down. Leaving crystal clear instructions for your future self increases the likelihood that you’ll actually get shiz done. The reason I emphasize context is because when you’re listening to a presentation, or chatting with a fellow entrepreneur, it’s really easy to jot something down shorthand that makes complete sense to you – but then later when you’re looking at your trapper keeper full of notes it’s much harder to decipher your memento style scribblings.
7. Prioritize Comfort
I’m not saying you should show up in your favorite pair of lululemon sweatpants (though I wouldn’t blame you), but I am saying you should consider prioritizing your own comfort. It’s Phoenix, and it’ll probably be fairly warm – but most of the time you’ll likely be inside. This time of year is challenging because it cools down in the evenings, and breaks 100 during the day. So, between the cooler ends of the day, and the air conditioned conference center you’ll want a light sweater, or some sort of layer. Oh, and since you’ll be walking a fair amount, so you’re going to want comfortable shoes. It’s a tech conference, so you can reasonably expect a full spectrum from business casual to flip-flops and a t-shirt. Oh, and maybe toss an extra phone battery or charger in your bag, that’s saved my tail more than once.
8. Build a Follow-Up Campaign
You’re going to meet people and you’re likely going to exchange business cards. One easy thing to do is create a follow-up campaign for those you meet. I’m not saying you should automatically subscribe them to all your promotions, but maybe create a simple follow-up to make sure they know what you do, and have your contact information – then, make sure that campaign is triggered by a tag so you can snap a picture of their business card and easily launch it from the Infusionsoft Mobile App on your phone.
Here’s a simple campaign structure you can use (or you can download this one): Create a trigger tag for people you meet at ICON, build a campaign where that tag starts things off – use a sequence to set their leadsource (if they don’t already have one), and to send a follow up email – possibly one with a soft call-to-action for something like your blog updates.
9. Book Time to Take Action
You’re more than likely going to have a handful of ideas during the course of ICON, but when you get back to your business, how are you going to find the time to implement those ideas? It’s really easy to get caught up digging through your inbox once your out-of-office comes down, or tackling the list of things that piled up while you were gone – so make a plan. Find space on your calendar to implement new ideas. You may not know what the ideas are yet – but reserve some time to research interesting topics you may want to look into, to install new plugins for your website, or to build out a nurture campaign structure you heard Greg Jenkins outline at 1:30 on Tuesday in room 120D.
Many of these ideas have been circulated recently and in years past, throughout the Infusionsoft community and various Facebook groups as advice for first-time ICON attendees – and while I wrote this list on my own, I can’t ignore that it certainly overlaps with some of the suggestions you may see floating around. But regardless of where each suggestion originated, the fact remains that this is pretty sound advice for attending any conference, and I hope it helps make your ICON experience as productive (and enjoyable) as possible!