Spring has sprung, and that means it’s conference season! If you’re fortunate enough to be able to get out of the office for a few days to do some training and networking, you’ll want to make the most of every minute.
Before you go
Whether it’s a meeting, an interview or a conference, you know preparation is the key to success. So these are a few must-not-miss steps to take before you board the plan, hit the road, etc:
- Map out your agenda. Yes you want to leave yourself a little flexibility, but check out all the sessions in advance to determine which you want to attend.
- Get the lay of the land. If you HAVE to have Starbucks, figure out where the closest one is to the conference venue, as well as the business center, ladies room, etc.
- Download the conference app. Almost every conference offers one these days. Not only is it helpful to keep your schedule straight, but many also give you real-time updates, such as when a session is running over timewise.
- Check your social media. Your conference likely has a hashtag. But don’t wait until you get there to start using it. In the weeks leading up to the conference speakers will use it to highlight what they’ll be doing when they’re there.
- Download the LinkedIn app. For many, gone are the days where you’ll swap business cards with someone you meet at a conference. It’s much easier to hop on linked in and connect with that person you had a great conversation with before the keynote address.
- Lock in your off-hours activities. Have a friend who lives in the area? A colleague you catch up with every year at the conference? Get those plans on the calendar before you go, rather than trying to do it on the fly once you get there.
When you’re there
- Don’t be afraid to leave. A particular session isn’t what you thought it was going to be about? Don’t hesitate to quietly get up and switch to another one. You only have so much time while you’re there – you want to get the most out of it.
- Go where the people are. Is there a session that’s standing room only? Your peers may know something, whether it’s a particularly dynamic speaker or a hot topic, you may want to follow suit.
- Help retain what you learn. Of course you’re going to feel some information overload during the conference. No matter how you take notes, take a minute at the very end of each session to jot down the key takeaways.
- Don’t skip the social times. From a networking standpoint, this might be the most helpful part of the conference. Naturally an introvert? Try these tips.
- Step away from the cell phone. We’re all attached to our phones (literally and figuratively). But if you’re scrolling and clicking up until the very minute the speaker starts talking, you’ll read as unapproachable and could miss out on opportunities to meet people. Even walk the halls if you can.
- Get the speakers on your radar. These industry experts can prove to be great resources for you, even if not today then down the road. The easiest way to keep them on your radar without a lot of maintenance: Follow them on Twitter.
Once you get back
- Share the wealth. Any tips or tricks you picked up? Pass them to your team. Any strategic trends in the industry? Share those with your boss. Showing the value of the conference to not only you but your organization as a whole will likely get you a return trip to next year’s event.
- Realistically assess the value. Of course that’s assuming you want to go back. Budget dollars are precious, so was this conference worth the money? Yes, there may be a strategic reason you have to be there, but if it’s not as useful as it once was, maybe there’s a different one worth attending next year.