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5 Event Hacks Before You Attend Your Next Conference Make the most of your networking opportunities.

By Kim Walsh Phillips

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Online intros are nice (keep 'em coming, ole fabulous referral sources), but nothing beats a relationship that you develop by meeting someone in person. Some of my best and most profitable relationships have come from attending events.

Whether they're called a summit, boot camp, conference or something else, online gatherings of industry or interest-specific individuals are invaluable when it comes to building your business.

As an advanced, old-school, been-at-this-a-long-time conference speaker and attendee, I have a few hacks I use to multiply the return on investment of each event.

1. Join and participate.

Check out if there is an event Facebook Group, LinkedIn Group or other pre-event gathering place for attendees. Hop on there and introduce yourself and start interacting with other attendees. A good way to start a chat is to simply ask "I'm in the X industry, anyone else attending in that niche?"

Also, participate in other chats attendees might be having. If there is no event group, consider contacting event organizers to ask if you can start one. Then just ask them to email attendees and share a link to your group. For our upcoming event, GameChangerMarketingSummit.com, we set up a Facebook event page to give our attendees a place to network before the event.

Related: Repair the 'Networking Disconnect' and Pursue Your Dream Job

2. Go outside.

If you belong to any other organizations such as local chambers or civic groups, or larger national or international organizations, post in those groups to ask if anyone is attending. For one of the associations I belong to, often I can find at least one or two people who are going. I then set up a time to meet for coffee or a cocktail so there is at least one guaranteed meeting before the event, which always helps this introvert's nerves about going in the first place.

3. Enter the club.

When booking the conference hotel, see if you can book the club level. This gives you access to the club lounge, which comes with perks like free breakfast and 24/7 coffee, but it also gives you a great place to have meetings and gatherings.

Often, there are appetizers served at happy hour, and you just have to pay a small fee for cocktails (in many places, they are free as well). Many a great meeting has taken place in the club level. Plus, there is something delicious about saying, "Want to meet upstairs in the club?"

It kind of makes me want to wear a velvet blazer with a big emblem on it. Try it and you'll see what I mean, smoking jacket not required.

Related: 16 Tips for Becoming a Master Networker

4. The suite life.

If your budget allows it, instead of renting a regular hotel room, get a suite. This gives you a great spot to host small gatherings and/or meetings. I try to do this at every conference we attend and set up one night to have folks over for drinks and dessert.

And for a big cost-saving measure, do not order your refreshments from the hotel. Instead, order everything in. Some of my favorite resources are Wine.com, Instacart to get cheese and crackers, nuts and some bite-size desserts; and Prime Fresh for other ingredients. For around $100 to $200, you can get enough goodies to host 20 or so, which is a fraction of the cost the hotel would charge. And this is allowed since it is in your hotel suite, not your meeting room.

5. Connect immediately.

The morning you are leaving, or on your flight home, send follow-up messages to everyone you met with on the next steps you talked about. Whether it is planning a future meeting, sending an intro or asking about a resource, be the rare breed that actually follows up and does what you said you were going to do. However, don't send this message right at that time. Instead, use a scheduling app like Boomerang to send it two days business days after you get back.

Give your new connection a chance to catch up on work and be responsive again to outside messages. Since you will also be back in the "real-world" flow, writing and scheduling the messages ahead of time ensures that it will happen. I already have time booked on my calendar for after our GameChangerMarketingSummit.com for follow up.

Before you attend your next conference, set up a plan to get the most out of the event by meeting new people who will eventually become great connections.

Kim Walsh Phillips

Founder of Powerful Professionals

Kim Walsh Phillips went from 32 clients to over 11,000 in less than a year and founded Powerful Professionals, a business coaching company that has been scaling consulting and coaching businesses. Phillips is the best-selling author of The No BS Guide To Direct Response Social Media Marketing.

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