Maximizing your convention experience and expense is simple if you follow this 3-step process.
You’ve made the decision to go to the annual cleaning convention this year. It’s a big decision. Not only will you be away from your business for as much as a week, there are a lot of expenses and personal considerations too.  You can’t afford to just “wing it!” 

There are many things you need to do to realize the full benefits that you can get from the experience without breaking the bank.  Here is a list of things to think about and do before, during, and after convention. Do things well, and you will reap the rewards for years to come.

Before the Convention
Register for the convention: Do it as soon as you decide to go.  Making the commitment is important and you may be able to make payments if needed.

Book your hotel room: If expenses are tight, you may want to consider a roommate. ARCSI has a forum for connecting with people for this purpose. Also, consider your social groups. Many people will be looking to share expenses.

Plan your time wisely: Your time will be more precious than you can imagine; plan it well so you don’t go home feeling like you missed amazing opportunities. Compare the ARCSI and ISSA schedules to determine the best places to be at each time of the day and night. You won’t be able to do and see everything, so it is important to make those decisions up front.  

Schedule some time to visit the ISSA Trade Show. It is much larger than you might imagine, and I’ve never heard of anyone navigating it in less than 3 hours; 6 hours is average.  You can break it up over different days, just keep track of where you start and end.  

You may want to schedule in some personal time to go to Disney, or just relax. Plan according to your natural energy style. Because networking with other business owners will most likely be of great value, schedule blocks of time specifically for this purpose. Meal times are great for this.

Make a list of the TOP 3 things you want to come home with: These could be connections, pieces of information, systems for doing things better, or anything else that is important to your business. Make sure these 3 items are addressed on your schedule.

Contact people whom you know you want to meet up with and arrange a time. Everyone is busy and creating their schedules; make sure you are a priority for the people who matter to you.  

Research the speakers whose seminars you plan on attending. Ask your social network for information, read bios, Google them, check out their web sites etc. Will you get the information you need from them?  If not, do something else.

During the Convention
Follow your schedule but make adjustments as things come up.

Make notes as you go through the day, either on your phone, tablet or just in a notebook. Collect business cards of people with information that is useful to you and write the information on the back of those cards.  

If you need cab service, share with someone and take advantage of this time to give or get information on your list.

Take pictures.  You will remember information better when a picture is attached.

Eat your meals with people who have something of interest to you. You will invariably connect with people who want to pick your brain as well – maybe you are on someone’s list. Lunch is the best time for this because there is a definite end time based on the next thing on your schedule. Packing a few protein bars can help you to not spend too much on food.  

At the end of each day when you get back to your room, do a brain dump. Put everything in writing. All the great ideas, the people you met, contact info, etc. You will retain much more information by doing this one simple thing.  

Get enough sleep; you will need to be refreshed to be at your best during the day.

After the Convention
Can you turn this event into a family vacation by flying them into Disney on the last day? Are there any tax write-off advantages for your business?

Take a day to organize all the information that you bring home.  Create your next steps before you go to work and get back into the rhythm of your days and lose the time, energy, or motivation to implement your plan.  

Contact the people you made connections with. Email, social media, thank you cards are all good ways to do this. Make sure these connections become part of your personal business network.

Last but not least, put a check-in on your calendar for one week after the convention to make sure you are on track. If you aren’t, take a day off and get on track or do it over the weekend; whatever it takes.  

Don’t let your amazing experience and all the sacrifices you made be a loss. Begin reaping your rewards immediately!

Liz Trotter is founder of American Maid Cleaning as well as an entrepreneur and leadership trainer based in Olympia, Washington. She is also a former ARCSI baord member, a partner in Cleaning Business Builders, creator of the HiPEP employee development system and a charter member of Cleaning For A Reason.