Conferences are a great way to further develop your professional skills. They are also beneficial in gaining exposure to new techniques and ways of thinking.
However, preparation is key in getting the most out of any conference. Here are a few things to consider when planning for your conference.
Relationships with colleagues and your professional peers are priceless. While you may think of the sessions as being the “place to learn”, avid conference goers disagree. The networking, conversations and camaraderie that happen in informal settings carry the most weight.
So, introduce yourself to other conference goers, don’t be afraid to strike up conversations, and by all means, DO NOT eat dinner by yourself. Either meet with an informal group of professionals you met at the conference or attend one of the organized dinners. Also, remember to pack plenty of business cards in addition to your pens and notebook.
Have a game plan. Look at the itinerary ahead of time. Flag the sessions that are most interesting to you; always have a plan A & B (if A is not stimulating after 15 minutes, you’ll have the option to leave and try something else).
If there is a list of attendees, review the list for those that you would like to reconnect with, along with those that you would like to meet. You can also email your list of contacts to see if anyone is attending, and plan accordingly.
Review the list of speakers and note any that you would like to meet. Trust me, doing this legwork ahead of time will make your time much more productive and enjoyable.
Follow-up. As with any event follow-up is key. Don’t follow-up and most of your networking at the conference will be in vain. Be sure to send a thank you note to presenters. Forward any information you promised to other professionals, and send a quick note to keep in contact with any new professionals you have met.
Towanda Long aka The Café Lady