Thursday, 26 June 2014

Best Practices to Maximize Conference Value

In this industry, we attend many conferences; our own, those for our association memberships, and those relevant to our area of work.  Here are 10 tips to maximize your attendance at a conference, and make it the best one yet:

  1. Do your research before the conference: Even before you register, you should put in some time to maximize the value you should (and, need) to receive.  Why are you attending it?  What do you want to accomplish?  Attendees should set goals (in writing if you can, it is easier to be accountable this way); so that you can track your experience, and make sure the time away from the office is effectively used.
  2. What can you do?  When planning on attending a conference, or selecting the sessions you want to learn from, determine what contribution you can add to it, not just what you want to get from it.  Determine what questions you might have based on the topic and description.  Ask your industry peers what they are attending, and what they want out of it.
  3. Put down your phone!  We are not suggesting that you cannot use your mobile device during sessions to tweet, connect, and share, but we all know that the real value of a conference is the human interaction.  It is easier to connect with people when you are not on your phone during breaks and lunch.  Meet new people, have conversations, share experiences.
  4. Manage Expectations:  Everyone has attended a session or two where the topic, or the speaker did not meet your expectations.  If you find you are in one of those sessions, you may start thinking negatively and not want to listen to the speaker anymore.  I recommend re-framing your intention – even if the session was not what you expected, you may still be able to draw key pieces of information that you did not expect to get.
  5. Go All In…: Attend everything you can, and avoid staying in your room, answering emails or taking calls.  Engagement is key to maximizing your conference experience, and you cannot do that alone.
  6. …But Stay Healthy:  If you are not a huge fan of large crowds, or are an introvert by nature, pace yourself, and set aside some downtime.  Take this time to plan the rest of your social and educational activities, and review your goals.  When out and about, dress comfortably, but appropriate – being yourself will be less exhausting all around.
  7. Make a lasting impression:  Be the best you can at connecting people, meeting new people, and collecting cards/contact info.  ALWAYS use a person’s name, and be interesting and have engaging conversations.  
  8. Leverage Your Attendance with Content:  How can you blog, write an article, or document what you have learned?  Who will you share it with?  Your members, your colleagues – both?  Depending on the conference you are attending, you may be the only one representing your organization.  Ensure that you take back everything you can, and outline it appropriately, so that all can benefit from your time out of the office.
  9. Follow-Up…:  Whether you have re-connected with a long-time industry peer, or met someone new, follow-up should be mandatory.  It can be a quick note to thank them for their time, or show a supplier/sponsor/exhibitor some appreciation for the demonstration/conversation/social function.  Personal follow-ups go a long way.
  10. …And Be Useful:  When sending your follow-up, especially if you have permission to by email, include a reference if you can to the conversation you may have had, and provide them with something useful (for example, a link to an article they may find interesting, or that information on your company that you promised).  Determine next steps in the relationship, and stay committed to following up.

What else could you be doing to maximize YOUR conference experience?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

No comments:

Post a Comment