Our conference survival guide for 2023
One of the biggest dates in the igaming calendar is coming up in February 2023 – the week of the London conferences. I’ve been attending these for so long that I remember when iGB Affiliate London was at Earl’s Court and called the London Affiliate Conference, but Yoshi, who works on the new Japan-facing site Casilife, is attending for the first time. Here’s my advice to him and all you other conference newbies!
Advance planning dos and don’ts
- Do start organising well in advance so you can get a good deal on travel and hotels and book meetings with important people before their schedule fills up
- Do reach out to existing partners to let them know you will be attending the conference
- Do plan to arrive the day before the conference starts if possible, so you won’t be delayed/stressed/exhausted the first day
- Do check that you have plenty of up to date business cards and order more if necessary
- Do download, install and complete your profile on the conference networking app, and check it regularly for messages
- Do make sure you have an up to date taxi app (Uber, Free Now, Bolt and Gett all work in London)
- Do prepare and print out a document (which you can also have on your phone) with details of your full schedule and double check all meetings have been arranged for London time (GMT is an hour behind CET)
- Don’t plan any sightseeing for the day after the conference – you will probably be too tired to do anything other than go to the wind down drinks (and if you aren’t too tired, you’re doing it wrong!). If you want to include some sightseeing in your trip, either arrive early or allow an extra day for recovery
Hotel & travel dos and don’ts
Some conferences have an official hotel but the London conferences don’t (they are way too big for that now). Instead, the ICE and iGB Affiliate London websites both have hotel booking sections where you can browse hotels by location – near Excel, near Tower Hill, near Liverpool St or near an Elizabeth Line station.
- Do consider evening plans when choosing a hotel. Some of the evening events during the London conferences week will be in Central London rather than near Excel, and the last public transport back to Excel is shortly after midnight, so if you are a party animal you may want to look at hotels in town rather than next to the conference centre
- Do make sure you know which stop to get off at for Excel. The Elizabeth Line and DLR go to Custom House for Excel West (the ICE main entrance) and only the DLR goes to Prince Regent for Excel East (iGB Afiiliate London and the ICE far entrance)
- Pro tip: Exit at the east end of Excel and use Prince Regent when returning to Central London after ICE as you are more likely to get a seat
- Just for fun: if you happen to travel on the DLR at a non-busy time, take a seat at the front of the first carriage and make like a true Londoner by pretending to drive the train!
- If you live in London, don’t assume you don’t need a hotel – check your journey times to Excel to see if it’s feasible to day trip the conferences
- If you are flying in, don’t assume that any airport with London in its name will do. London City Airport is very close to the conference centre and all other “London” airports are a long way away. Heathrow is the next best airport option with direct travel to Central London and Excel via the Elizabeth Line, but it is more than 20 miles away and at least an hour’s travel time. Depending on where you are travelling from, you may also want to consider the Eurostar to St Pancras
- Don’t bring too much luggage. Air travel is much smoother if you just have carry-on. Having said that, you will need some space to bring promo items home
- Don’t assume it’s best to get taxis everywhere. In London, public transport (e.g. the DLR or Elizabeth Line to and from Excel) is very often quicker and easier as well as cheaper. You can use contactless or a visitor Oyster card (but not cash) to pay
Meetings & networking dos and don’ts
- Planning to do a series of meetings in the bar or VIP area? Do get there early and do bring a colleague so at least one person is always present to save the table
- Do prepare for your meetings properly. There’s nothing worse than meeting with someone who doesn’t know anything about your product/traffic/whatever!
- Do send a photo if you are meeting someone new so they know what you look like – especially if the meeting isn’t at their stand or yours!
- Do make sure you can contact the people you are meeting (Maybe they don’t check their email and Skype regularly during the conference?)
- Do let people know if you are running late or need to cancel/rearrange
- Do bring a power bank and cables
- Do take notes at your meetings so you can follow up on action points later
- Do go to the networking drinks and talk to everyone (not just people you think are immediately useful)
- If you attend with colleagues, do spend some time socialising and team-building before and after the conference proper
- Do step out of your comfort zone. Go check out every stand, take in some panels or talks, strike up conversations with people outside your niche
- Don’t arrange meetings in quick succession, especially if they are in different parts of the venue. 30 minutes between start times means that people being late and meetings that overrun don’t ruin the schedule for the rest of the day
- Don’t rely on your calendar app – there’s too much scope for time zone confusion
- Don’t rely on the conference Wi-Fi – it often gets overloaded
- Don’t arrange to meet someone “at the main entrance” (at Excel, several locations fit that bill) especially if you don’t know what they look like!
Conference wellbeing dos and don’ts
Finally, don’t forget about self-care during a conference. Here are my tips for pacing yourself and avoiding burnout.
- Do wear comfortable shoes (at Excel, you could be walking literally miles)
- Do bring a coat – it’s cold in London in February! Excel and most events venues have cloakrooms
- Do bring emergency snacks. You’ll be able to get water on the show floor
- Do bring painkillers, and maybe plasters for blisters
- Do eat a good breakfast (either at your hotel or at one of the many food outlets at Excel that open before the show floor does)
- Do try to schedule in some downtime between a day on the show floor and an evening event
- Do find a stand that does good coffee (and espresso martinis if you’re hardcore!). You’re going to need it on day 2
- Don’t fill the whole day with meetings and events. Do give yourself a break so your eyes aren’t glazing over by the late afternoon
And perhaps the most important piece of advice of all….
Don’t overdo it on the first evening.
This is a classic rookie error… and it’s also done at every conference by a whole load of industry veterans (myself included) who really ought to know better!
She’s been in the igaming industry for 10 years and her brief also includes SEO and