How to Make the Most of Your FUTURE NOW Experience
I first attended the FUTURE NOW Media & Entertainment Conference in 2018. At the time my writing partner, Jason Rugg and I lived just outside of Chicago. We felt like we had exhausted most of our local networking opportunities and started attending multiple media conferences in order to expand our professional network. The FUTURE NOW Media & Entertainment Conference was by far the best. The FUTURE NOW team handcrafts each session to help you learn how to become a better media professional. If all you do is show up and sit back, you will benefit from their hard work, but you will not maximize your FUTURE NOW Media & Entertainment Conference experience. To do that, you need to do what every professional does. Put in the work. As an attendee that starts with reading the bios of every scheduled speaker and mentor, context is key to understanding. By reading speakers' and mentors' bios posted on the FUTURE NOW website, you can begin to gain critical insight into their backgrounds and perspectives. While you're doing this, you should look up any terms that you don't understand. If you don't know what a Global head of MARCOM does, google it. If you aren't 100% sure what content distribution is, look it up. Understanding the basics of the different media industry sectors before you attend the conference will help you better understand everything you will learn.
Make a list. Once you've read all of the bios, you should make a list of the 10 to 15 speakers and mentors that interest you most. Maybe they attended the same school as you; they could work in a field that you want to explore, or maybe they just seem like an interesting person. Once you have your list, you should look them up on LinkedIn. Figure out what their career path has been. Understand what their current role is. If you don't know what their job title means... you get the picture. Another thing you can do on LinkedIn is to go to the activity section of their profile to see if they've written any articles or given interviews. Even just looking through the kind of articles that they share and comment on is valuable context. Once you've finished that up, go to the news section on Google and see what's happening with their company in general. If you can find something related to their department, even better.
Jot down questions. Once you've finished this process, you're ready to start jotting down some questions. You'll probably want to have 3-5 questions prepared for each person on your list. Often the best questions have a personal connection while also having a universal appeal. For example, the question "What do you look for when hiring entry-level roles in your department" would be helpful to you if you wanted to work at their company while also being valuable to anyone looking for a job in the same field. There will be multiple opportunities to ask questions both during the sessions and at the mentoring round tables. Remember, you don't get to select who you get assigned to during the mentoring round tables, so having done your due diligence on 10 to 15 different speakers will pay off. Follow up. In my opinion, the best thing about the FUTURE NOW Media & Entertainment Conference is that they only book speakers and mentors who are genuinely interested in helping develop your career. Even if you don't get an opportunity to speak to someone at the conference, most of the speakers and mentors are willing to talk afterwards. When Jason and I attended the conference in 2018 we decided to drive all the way from Chicago, just so that it would be easier for us to set up in-person informational meetings with mentors after the conference ended. After a year of everyone working remotely, a much easier way to follow up is to ask for a short meeting over the phone or zoom. You can do this by sending them a LinkedIn connection request or through the Whova app. In your request, tell them the questions that you're interested in asking to establish a framework for the conversation. Not everyone will have time, but many will. These informational meetings are a significant step in establishing the relationships you need to succeed in the media and entertainment industry. If you're interested in more advice on maximizing your FUTURE NOW Media & Entertainment Conference experience, you can listen to this podcast where Jason and I sit down to talk with FUTURE NOW Founder and CEO Peggy Kim about our conference experience.