Conferences are an integral part of the Middle Market M&A world. They provide opportunities for deal professionals to re-engage important relationships, line up new clients, and to broadcast their areas of interest and focus to the deal community at large. To prepare for one of the industry’s largest conferences– ACG InterGrowth– we recently collected and consolidated a series of best practices and tips. Although released for InterGrowth, these best practices will help you make the most of any conference.

Before the Conference

The most productive conferences begin with clear goals, planning, and organization.

The first step to a productive conference begins before you even register. Ask yourself why you want to attend this particular conference and what you hope to accomplish. By setting goals, you help ensure that the time spent away was intentionally and effectively used.

Once you’re registered, take a close look at the attendee list. Prioritize who you want to meet, and schedule a time and place beforehand. Track these scheduled meetings in a spreadsheet, including cell phone numbers, and print out a copy to have on hand at the conference. Scheduling ahead allows you to maximize the limited time you have at the conference.

Finally, think big picture about your conference destination. Stay an extra day after the conference ends to meet with those who live in the city. This scheduling frees up time to meet more people at the conference, and allows you to meet those that did not attend.

At the Conference

Having meetings scheduled ahead of time does not guarantee their value. In the same way that you set large goals for the conference, set smaller goals for each interaction you have. For example, do you simply want to re-engage this particular relationship or is there a specific deal you want to share? Do you want the meeting to be a one-on-one or will you try and bring others into the conversation?

To leave a strong impression at the conference, try to the be the connector, always collect cards, use everyone’s name, and engage in interesting conversations. Ensure that everyone you meet can easily identify you, by place your name tag on the right side of your body– it provides maximum visibility while shaking hands.

Amidst all of the connections being made, attending a conference can sometimes feel like stepping into a bubble. Beyond being away from the office, it’s often hard to stay updated on the news. We’ve found that using social media, particularly a few key applications on our smart phones, help us operate outside the usual conference bubble.

Twitter easily solves these issues. Use Twitter to stay updated on the outside world by following news organizations and industry leaders. You can find some of our curated Twitter lists here. You can also stay on top of conference developments by following the conference hashtag and organizers.

Additionally, check if the conference has a dedicated mobile app that consolidates a map, attendees, and the agenda all in one convenient location.

After the Conference

Applications like CardMunch, Evernote Hello, and 5Degrees make follow-up easy and comprehensive by collecting data on the people you meet right on the spot. Either scan their business cards or enter their information into your phone, and you’ll be able to seamlessly follow-up once you’re back in the office. Be sure to follow-up with each attendee you meet within three business after the conference ends.

If you misplace or lose any business cards, there’s now a solution. Axial Tags & Contacts lets you upload, organize, label, and communicate with all of your contacts from one place. Simply add and tag the attendees you met or contact your Member Success Manager for help uploading the conference attendee list.

 - Download our ACG InterGrowth Packet for more insights -

If you won’t be putting these best practices to use at ACG InterGrowth next week, here are some of the other conferences to keep an eye on in 2013:

Global Private Equity Conference

Buyouts Chicago

AMAA Summer Conference

Private Equity Analyst Conference

Buyouts West

M&A East

TedX Wall Street