Are you planning to attend a professional conference soon? That’s great! Attending professional conferences can help you build on your current expertise, introduce you to new ideas, skills and tools, and expand your professional network. Taking the time to prepare before the conference, attending and participating pre- through post-show and following up afterward will make your overall experience a very positive one! Below are some tips and tricks for getting all of these things done.
Think About Your Goals
The path to successful conference going starts with having a plan. What do you hope to gain from this conference? Is there a certain topic being covered that interests you? Do you have specific questions that you are hoping this conference will help you answer? Are you looking to build upon your knowledge of something you already do or are you hoping to branch out from your current professional experience to something totally new? Before you show up at the event try to have a few things in mind to focus on.
Get the App
There are some great tools available that will help you form this personal event plan. Most conferences now offer mobile apps. Download it and start browsing through the features. Not only will this be handy before the conference, but you’ll likely find it useful as you go through the events day of. In addition to apps, there are usually other online materials that will be available ahead of time. Take some time to read things over and look for opportunities during the event that will help you to achieve your conference goals. It will make you feel much more prepared and informed day of.
Be an Active Participant
Now that you’ve prepared – participate! Orientations and/or meet and greets the evening before are great ways for helping you get a feel for what others are excited about. They are also casual, social settings in which to meet people who may become valuable professional contacts. Try to attend them if you can. Maybe the other attendees will turn you on to something you hadn’t thought about yet, or because you are so prepared, maybe you will be the one driving the conversation! Be sure to bring your business cards, and exchange them with anyone you find interesting.
While you’re at the conference, be present. During the sessions, ask questions, offer suggestions and take notes. If you discover something you know would apply to a certain account or department at work, be sure to highlight it. If there is something you feel you’d like to explore further – be sure to make a reminder for yourself on how/with whom to follow up. During intermissions between sessions and during the post-show events, don’t hesitate to mingle. Look for the connections you made at the orientation and say hello. Engage them as well as introducing yourself to others and build those new professional relationships and friendships.
Don’t Forget to Follow Up
After the conference, follow up on your experience. If you learned a new trick, gained a specific insight or found something applicable or actionable at work, share it with your team. This way everyone benefits from your attendance, and your boss will definitely appreciate it, too. Be sure to hold on to conference materials that you may want to reference in the future. They will serve as great reminders if you ever have a specific follow-up question or would like to get into more depth on a certain session’s focus.
Contact people you exchanged business cards with. If you are local, consider setting up a meetup or inviting them to one that already exists. If you are from out of town, extend the invitation for collaborating or consulting online. Most importantly, thank your boss for sending you! It is a sure thing that they will see the benefits you and the company have gained from your attendance, and likely they will think of you when the next professional conference opportunity comes up. Happy conferencing!
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