1) Bring a bunch of business cards – Seriously, don’t forget.
I have been amazed during the past conferences when I have run into someone who said that they forgot their cards or had already run out (it wasn’t just an excuse… was it?). There are more than 700 people there who care about innovation as much or more than you do – it would be a shame to miss out on sharing and building your ideas because it was taking too much time to write your email on napkins with a sharpie. And yes, technology is making it easier and easier to instantly share your contact information, but there is a neurological benefit in connecting a verbal conversation to the physical touch and visual elements of a business card. When I look at a business card I was given even 5 years ago, it still triggers the memory of the conversation I had with that person.
2) Forget about checking your email during the day.
The internet connection historically sucks at the convention center and you will just be setting yourself up for disappointment if you are planning to check emails in-between talks. Also, the time in between is the BEST part of the conference. That is your chance to grab some free pens, eat some chocolates, and register for multiple iPad 2 giveaways (and you could make a few connections with peers who probably share more in common with than your own family). Seriously, take the time to mingle and talk with people while you are there – your email will be waiting for you when you get to your hotel.
3) Plan to “Collect and Connect”
Bring a few challenges you don’t know how to solve with you (write them down in a simple 1 sentence structure). New concepts will be turned into applicable knowledge through the action of applying the new concept to something personal and tangible. Try to view the entire conference as a stimulus collection opportunity. Use the networking breaks to share your challenge with a peer and see if you can connect the dots and stimulate some new thinking about your challenge.