I don’t do well with wasting time. The same is true with attending Conferences. The reasons for attending may vary…self development, corporate exposure, sponsorship, teaching or keynote opportunity etc.. However, to be assured that you gain a value add from your attendance or participation while there, check out my top 10 things I have learned that could help.
- Go alone. Going by yourself assures that you do what’s best for YOU. You are not taking a consensus every time that you want to pick a course or even where to eat. It saves time, frustration and helps you to remain focused on your reason for being there.
- If you are going with a group, try not to attend the same courses | sessions. This way you can swap notes and between you, you will have a wider exposure to the knowledge made available.
- Sit as close to the front as possible. This helps with focus, it also put you closer to seeing things you can learn from (production, speakers mannerisms and facial expressions).
- Form a viable question for the sessions and speakers that you plan to attend well in advance. If it isn’t answered during the speech, and there is time for Q & A, ask it. Do not wait until Q & A starts to form a question, take the time to be certain that if you get the attention of the speaker that your question has been well thought out and relevant in subject matter. This also means that you need to look up and research the speakers in advance.
- Take Business cards and collect business cards. Write on the back as quickly and discreetly as you can, where you met them and something unique (i.e. we met on the shuttle to the hotel & she was from originally Philly). This will be a great aid when you follow up with them after the conference.
- Stay at the hotel that is hosting the conference. This is not only a time saver, but gives you way more opportunities to network before and after sessions. Most importantly, if you need to break away from the conference for a minute to drop off bags or regroup, your room is just a few steps away.
- Become a conduit for others. When you meet someone who would be a good connect with someone else you’ve met, tell them. Also go the extra mile to try to connect them during the conference. Both parties will remember your kindness. Also mention the type of person you are looking to meet up with…i.e.“if you happen to run into anyone who is in Public relations, let me know…I am looking to XYZ….”
- If you are speaking, make yourself available to the attendees as much as you can by not rushing off and if possible attending some of the other sessions. One of the most incredible things I have heard a speaker do, is invite people to her suite to continue the conversation or get further questions answered. Trust me, she was the most popular person at the conference and her materials went like wildfire. Her suite was packed. She even answered questions in the hallway. Her graciousness was genuine and people appreciated her.
- If you are a Social Media advocate (and its been expressed in the conference that it is appropriate) TWEET your notes instead of just writing them down. Write them (great for ipad users) in a note and then copy and paste it into a tweet. Be certain to use the conference hash tag and the speakers’ handle when you can. I have gained many inroads to meeting speakers and getting direct messages from them just based on my tweets. Also your twitter page then holds notes for every conference you’ve attended and can be referenced by a hash tag search or a scroll back to be added to a more permanent notebook later.
- At the end of the day for each day of the conference, consider making a quickvideo tape your notes. Yes, you can write them down. However I have found that listening to YOUR voice say what you got out of a conference and are going to do differently, better, more of or less of…is a great motivator. (Here is a link to an example of a quick video recap https://youtu.be/jp8k54VQefY )
Bonus: If you like to bring back a gift for the kids or spouse, like me….here is an idea—shop before you leave. Don’t tell them…they will not wonder whether you got it from wherever you visited. Grab a bracelet for your daughter and a watch for hubby. They will never know the difference. This prevents you from wasting time at the mall when you could be gleaning more information. For location “specific” stuff, grab it at the airport. You can thank me later.