Becky’s Affiliated: How to plan your conference week for ICE and LAC

plan-your-conference-week-ice-lacThe full official schedule for London’s “conference week” 2014 is incredibly aggressive, and that’s even before considering all the private parties, dinners and all other sorts of wining and dining you may be invited to. Hopefully this guide will help you decide what to put on your agenda and what to skip because, sadly,its impossible to go to everything.

Personally I’ve attended ICE and LAC (and all the evening activities that go along with them) every single year since 2006, so I truly speak from experience.  The temptation to go “all in” with everything on the agenda is a big one, but I urge you to resist- its not worth the physical and mental consequences.

It’s a challenge to provide blanket advice on how to plan your conference week in London as the individual motivations and goals for attending are all over the map.  This point actually brings us to the first and most important step of your planning, figuring out exactly what you want to accomplish at these conferences before you go.  Once you determine what you want to achieve (or what your company wants you to achieve) its much easier to plan your attack and get the most out of your very busy week in London.

If your goal is to attend sessions:

ICE Totally Gaming offers an excellent selection of sessions for the b2b land based and online gambling audience.  Over the three days of ICE, there are a series of free to attend seminars and eight “premium” conference streams that come with a price.

The most valuable planning to do before ICE is figure out exactly what sessions you want to attend, when they are and where they are.  The ExCeL venue is huge and it can take 15-20 minutes to walk from one end to the other, sofamiliarize yourself with the location of each session on your list.  Its also worth trying out the ICE Mobile App and its event planner function, but be prepared for wifi issues on the expo floor andcome equipped with a hard copy of your session agenda on hand so you don’t miss anything.

If you’re interested in attending LAC sessions, your planning should be much easier- there a lot less sessions to choose from at LAC and the two conference tracks should bein close proximity to each other.

Lastly, if you really want to learn something at these sessions, don’t show up tired and hung over- plan to have an early and relatively sober evening the night beforeso you don’t fall asleep in your chair (believe me, it happens).

If your goal it to make sales and other business deals:

To actually close major sales and deals at these conferences you have got to plan meetings with your targets in advance and plan them offsite.  Book breakfast at your prospect’s hotel, take them for lunch near the conference center, or take them for a nice dinner in central London.  Its hard to have serious and private conversations at the actual expos with people stopping by to say hello, people running late and all sorts of other unpredictable interference.

If you are unable to secure meetings in advance with your targets and they have a booth, get to the expo right when it opens, approach the booth,identifythe person you need to talk to and find out when they will be at the booth that day.  Set up a meeting if you can.  The last day of ICE is quiet, especially the second half, but I would avoid on-site sales pitching that afternoon as people are tired and they won’t be as receptive.  Get their business card and call them the following week instead.

If your goal is to casually network and exchange business cards:

While stopping by booths to network can be beneficial, in my experience, the most valuable networking occurs at the private affairs such as dinners, awards tables, cocktail receptions and also around the conference hotels.  In these types of situations you can have real conversations with people and they will remember you…its also likely they will introduce you to their contacts who are sitting next to them and so on.  Accepting invites for smaller private affairs should be at the top of your list and staying at the conference hotel is almost always worth the extra money.

Another great place and time to do this type of networking is at the expo bars- the Microgaming bar at ICE and the open bar at LAC.  The Microgaming bar really gets going around 3 or 4pm and the LAC open bar begins at 3pm, so there’s plenty of room for big nights out and later arrivals if you wish.

Another great place to hit is the Intertops Sunday Session, a smaller and more casual event that is the perfect place to have a chat with someone new.

The bigger conference parties are not ideal for solidnetworking as they tend to take place in loud, crowded and dark venues, although bumping into people you met earlier in the day can help solidify a new connection.

If your goal is to sign up affiliates or sign up with new affiliate programs:

If you want to sign up big affiliates at the conference, get in line.  No, but seriously- you must book something with these guys in advance and make it offsite!  The big affiliates are very popular and get absolutely mobbed on the expo floor so they will not stay for long.  Instead, come up with an original idea and take them somewhere fun and creative in Central London- focus on fun and don’t worry about how expensive it is because guess what? They can already afford it.

If you want to sign up new affiliates, hopefully you’ve got a stand at LAC, if not, plan one for next year.

If you want to sign up with new affiliate programs, plan to visit all the booths at LAC.

If your goal is to get drunk and party:

To be fair, part of your job may be to entertain clients or affiliates in the evenings and we all know this involves getting drunk and partying.  If you’re one of these people, be sure to book everything in advance as this is Central London we’re taking about and the hot restaurants and clubs can be booked out for days, especially on the weekends.

For everyone else, you’re in luck.  Plan to visit the conference bars (Microgaming bar at ICE and open bar at LAC) from 3pm, move on to the conference hotel bar after the expo closes and show up at the official parties right when they start so you can make the most of the open bar.