Getting The Most Out of Professional Conferences
If you’re going to attend a professional conference, you’ll want to get the most out of your experience. Conferences can be daunting events, and it can hard to navigate them most efficiently. You’ll put a lot into planning for and traveling to the conference. And once you’re there, you’ll be engrossed in a world of presentations, free merchandise, and other people in suits handing you business cards. There will be seemingly endless speakers and slideshows to consider, as well as the all-important question, what are you going to do at night? If you’re attending a professional conference, here are some suggestions that will help you get the most out of your time.
Make a Plan
Before you even travel to the conference, you should check out the schedule of events and create a tentative plan for yourself. Decide on which presentations you definitely don’t want to miss, and schedule your days around them. Come up with more than one option for each block of time in case there is a schedule change or one lecture is just too boring to stay in. Make sure you fit in time for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and know if any of these meals will be provided to you. Don’t forget social events or evening gatherings. It’s good to have a plan before you go, but don’t plan on following it to the T. It should just be a general guide. Make adjustments as necessary.
Bring with you sufficient supplies, such as plenty of notebooks and pens so you can take notes. Also, bring along business cards and brochures for networking. You should also bring highlighters, a calculator and some folders. Don’t overdo it or you’ll weight yourself down, but be prepared.
Never Stop Networking
The professional connections and relationships you form at a conference are potentially the most important part. Everyone comes to a conference expecting to meet other like-minded individuals, so don’t be shy. Talk to everyone, everywhere. Generously hand out and collect business cards. Also, don’t forget about dinner. Everyone will need to eat, and no one knows what they’re doing for it ahead of time. Try to make dinner plans with people you’d like to get to know better.
Don’t Get Distracted by Work
If you spend your entire conference on the phone with or emailing work, why did you even go? Let the office know you intend to spend your time doing conference things, and that you’ll be putting off any nonessential matters until you return.
Take Advantage of the Traveling
If you’re lucky enough to be attending a conference in a new and exciting place you’ve never visited before, take some time to enjoy the area beyond the conference. You’ve gone all that way, so you might as well spend at least one afternoon or evening doing some sightseeing. At the very least, take your meals at some unique local restaurants.
Share Your Experience
When you get back to the office, you should pass on your new knowledge as much as possible. Develop a presentation of your own to enlighten your employees and coworkers on the most important things you learned. Also, compile a report for your boss so he knows your time spent was well worth it, and he’ll be more likely to encourage you and others to attend more conferences in the future.
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