Attending conferences can be an expensive and time-consuming proposition. Besides the cost of registration and travel, the sessions can often be overwhelming and long days are filled with lots of information. On the other hand, conferences can be one of the most beneficial and valuable investments for your business, if you approach them the right way.
Here are 10 tips to help you get the most out of your conference experience:
Before the Event
1. Set goals for the event. Think about what you hope to gain from your attendance at the conference. Be specific and write it down! Consider your goals for specific content areas, specific questions you hope to have answered, the number and kinds of people you want to meet and/or amount of new ideas you hope to gain.
2. Review and research speakers. Do some research on some of the speakers you believe you are interested in hearing in advance. Review some of their work, projects and committees they have been a part of, and the organizations they work for.
3. Pre-plan sessions. Scout the session schedule beforehand and highlight the sessions most relevant to the problem you are trying to solve and what you are interested in learning more about.
At the Conference
4. Note what you don’t know. Make a “to research” list during sessions for thoughts, buzzwords or acronyms to review later. Trying to soak in every concept will distract you from your primary objective.
5. Observe innovation. Look for emerging trends and inspiring new ideas to consider in addition to your problem-solving. This is a great time to learn new best practices for possible adoption.
6. Make time to meet people. Take time for genuine, in-depth conversations with peers, and jot down notes on business cards. Don’t try to meet everyone; instead focus on meeting fewer, more relevant contacts,
7. Pace yourself. Get some sleep, eat right to keep energy up and take time to step outside and breathe between sessions. Don’t get overwhelmed and enjoy the atmosphere.
After the Show
8. Take time to digest. Schedule necessary time after the conference to review the notes and materials you collected while ideas and information are still fresh and top of mind.
9. Follow up with contacts. Take the time to send any new contacts a card or email. Doing so helps your next conference be even more productive plus builds your personal reference library of industry experts.
10. Create an action plan. Review your findings and information and formulate a plan to further investigate and evaluate these ideas. Share your knowledge with co-workers and/or fellow committee members who were not able to attend the conference.