Conference season is upon us. I’ll be attending two in the coming weeks, and I’m really looking forward to them. Through the years I have learned a few tricks to maximize what I get out of a conference.
1. Do your prep work. Ahead of the conference, review the schedule, the hotel location, amenities and anything else that is important to you. For example, I always find out how safe the area is for walking or if there is an onsite workout facility.
2. Review the schedule. You don’t want to miss the one session you should attend because you are elsewhere. One of the conferences I am attending is for mystery writers and fans. I looked up my favorite authors and have highlighted their sessions so I can be sure to sit in on their panels and hear their advice.
3. Bring the right tools. I now take a mini multi-prong adapter with me when I travel. I can plug in two devices and two USB cables. I can’t tell you how many times I have been to a hotel and I can’t find an electric outlet that is easily accessible. Traveling with this device lets me plug everything in in one spot.
Did you know that most conference attendees bring three mobile devices to conferences, according to the Benchmark Resorts and Hotels 2014 list of trends? I also go old-school and bring a highlighter, which is perfect for marking the program and a tablet for writing notes. An envelope or pouch is handy for storing receipts, business cards and any other relevant conference materials.
4. Take a nap. Conferences can be exhausting. Not to mention that most of us also are keeping up with our offices. Given that, sometimes it’s worth it to skip one session or a networking event to take a siesta. The downtime is the perfect way to recharge.
5. Leverage social media. If there is a conference hashtag, follow the tweets to learn what others think about the speakers and topics. Share your take-aways on Twitter or LinkedIn. You can also acknowledge great speakers, conference staff and hotel staff.
6. Network successfully. I am not talking about walking around and collecting business cards. I am talking about introducing yourself to a few people, and then asking them questions about what they do. If you make a connection, continue the conversation and find out if there is a way you might assist them. Sometimes, it’s as simple as sending them a link for a resource. Be sure to follow up.
7. Block your first morning back. I always block the first morning I return to the office. I use this time to identify my priorities for the week, respond to outstanding requests and review emails. I also use the time to follow-up on conference items. This includes connecting on LinkedIn with people I met at the conference and ordering or downloading books I learned about and want to read. I also create a short document of my take-aways so they aren’t quickly forgotten. (To read about one I recently created, check out this blog.)
If you have a suggestion to add to this list, please leave a comment with it.