5 ways to get the most out of any conference
Thursday, May 03, 2018
Attending a conference with anyone else from your organization is a great opportunity to build, strengthen or even repair relationships. Take the time to network with purpose.
For example, commit to learning something new about a team member, strengthen a relationship with someone outside your normal work circle or take action to repair any misconceptions or old wounds.
Of course, conferences are also a great time to expand your network outside the office. Check out the sponsors, other attendees and speakers then make a list of interesting people to meet.
Connecting with an expert who is further along your own path can lead to a great mentoring relationship, but in the moment, a quick coffee conversation could provide valuable insight that saves you time and effort.
Similarly, conferences are also a great chance to meet people doing things you may only dream about. Want to be a professional speaker? Become a consultant, teacher or set up your own shop some day?
Odds are, the panelists, experts and vendors in attendance have done so and this is a great chance to find out their secret. To make connecting easier, try reaching out via LinkedIn to provide a face with your name.
Networking with vendors is also a great time saver. If you have a new service need or need to upgrade a system, set a specific time and amount of time to hit the expo.
Look at the map before and pick vendors based on parameters you know you need. Then stay focused and get the information you need in one afternoon.
Tracks are great because they save us the time of figuring out the best sessions to attend based on our skills and interests. However, think outside yourself and attend a few sessions outside your track.
For example, if you have a pending new hire, attend a session where candidates might be. Doing something different also helps fight content fatigue and information overload.
Conferences mean early days that often last well past the normal work schedule. If you are going by yourself, find a way to add a vacation element to your stay so you can maximize your time away from the office. Even if you are attending with a group, make sure to carve out some me time.
For example, take advantage of the extra pre-planned activities like concerts and theme parties in the evenings or the city tours and sightseeing during the day. If you are a leader attending with your team, use these events as fun team-building time, just make sure the time for the team is at least the same amount of time you let employees be on their own.
To get the most out of a conference, set an intention in each of the above categories before you go. Then, before leaving the conference reflect and figure out whether you met your goals.
Taking a few minutes before and after the conference to write down specific intentions around having fun, relationship building, learning and growing is a great way to close out the conference as well as combat the overwhelm associated with all the notes, thumb drives and swag from the expo floor.
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