Back to school also means the kick-off of conference season. Whether you will be attending your first or your tenth, here are five tips I’ve picked up through the years, which I hope will help ensure that you get the most from your conference attendance.
Review the program. I’m old school and take a highlighter to the conference book after I check-in. I highlight the workshops I would like to attend. I review the presenter bios to see if there are individuals with whom I would like to connect. I also look for opportunities in the conference schedule for down time or time to connect with other attendees. Most conferences publish much of the details on their website so you can do some prep work from your office.
Bring the right tools. If you are old school, bring a fresh notebook, some pens (in case one runs out of ink) and a highlighter to mark key take-aways. I also bring an envelope or pouch, which I find handy for storing receipts, business cards and other relevant conference materials.
If you are all digital, be sure you bring the right power cords. If you are a heavy note taker, your device might run out of juice during the day so be prepared to find an outlet for charging or bring a back-up power supply. I also bring a mini multi-prong adapter for the room. I can plug in two devices and two USB cables. That way I can keep my mobile, Fitbit and laptop charged and not scramble for plugs.
Leverage social media. If there is a conference hashtag, follow the tweets to learn what others think about the speakers and topics. If a speaker mentions a resource, someone likely will tweet the resource and how to find it, which is always helpful. You can share your take-aways on Twitter or LinkedIn. You can also acknowledge great speakers, conference staff and hotel staff.
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.
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.