Exploring your MBA options? MBA fairs are a great way to get a feel for what different business schools have to offer. In 2021, some MBA fairs are happening in person, while others — including this year’s Forté MBA Forums — will take place online. In either format, an MBA fair is an opportunity to make a personal connection with admissions reps and alumni at schools that interest you, ask questions, and assess how well each school aligns with your goals. Whether your next MBA fair is live or virtual, take the following actions before, during, and after the fair to get the most out of it. Before the MBA Fair, Take Time to Prepare. Know which schools you want to talk to. Participating business schools will typically be listed on the event's website beforehand. Familiarize yourself with their programs to determine if they could be a good match for you. Reach out a few days in advance. If there are a few schools that really interest you, email them beforehand and let them know you'll be at the fair. This shows initiative and puts you on their radar. Perfect your "pitch." Be ready to mention two or three ways you would add value to a particular MBA program. When they say, “Tell me about yourself,” they’re really asking, “What do you have to offer?” Highlight your key strengths, and keep your answer concise. Prepare a few questions. If you can figure out what a particular school is looking for, you can package your experience and skill set to align with those needs. That’s how you move from being a strong candidate to an ideal candidate. Update your resume and LinkedIn.Be sure they reflect your career goals and your transferable skills. If the fair is virtual, test your setup. Find out what platform the MBA fair is using and download it in advance to make sure it works on your computer. If you have a personal profile on the platform, log in and fill it out in advance. If there’s a tutorial, watch it. Make sure you know how to do anything you might want to do during the event. Look the part. While you certainly don’t need to show up in a suit, remember this is your first opportunity to make a good impression. Even at a virtual fair, make sure your look says "professional," not "pajamas." Seize the (MBA Fair) Day. Plan to arrive a few minutes early. You could hit traffic on the way — or, if it's a virtual fair, you might have tech issues. You don’t want to miss the beginning. Shut off any potential distractions. Silence your phone so you won't be interrupted during an important conversation. Participate. Talk to the people you meet, and not just the school representatives. The other attendees could be your future b-school classmates. Ask thoughtful questions. It’s easier to ask good questions when you’ve prepared them in advance, so have your list handy. Connect with the alumni. An increasing number of schools now bring alumni to fairs alongside their admissions personnel. Chatting with them can provide valuable insights on what it's like to attend that school. Take notes. To remember someone’s name or a key piece of information, write it down or make a note in your phone. After one-on-one conversations, note a few points of connection, so you can be specific in your follow-up message. If you get a good feeling about a particular school, note it. Those gut instincts can help you decide where to apply. After the MBA Fair. Send thank you emails. Time your follow-up message strategically; it’s not always best to contact a recruiter right after an event. They often get flooded with messages at that time, so waiting 24-48 hours can be the difference between being the only email in their inbox and the 50th. Keep the conversation going. When you message your new contacts, mention a specific point from your conversation at the MBA fair, so they remember you. Then, ask a follow-up question or two. Connect on LinkedIn. If your new contacts are open to it, connect with them on LinkedIn. Share a post that relates to your previous discussion. Register for an upcoming Forté MBA Forum to explore the value of an MBA and gain insights on the b-school admissions process.