Attending professional conferences can be professionally—and personally—rewarding. In this post, I share tips for making the most of your professional conference experience.
Do Your Homework
Before you even register for a professional conference, do your homework! Conduct an Internet search, ask colleagues, and look for reviews of the particular conference in which you are interested in attending. You may discover other conferences that you are interested in attending in the process.
Once you pick a conference to attend, research sessions that are of interest to you. Sometimes there are multiple sessions on a similar topic. It can be difficult to make a decision while at the conference. Conduct an Internet search of the presenters to find out more about them and the topic of their presentation.
Doing your homework will help you make an informed decision about the conference you are attending and the sessions being presented.
If you are looking to infuse some fun into your conference experience, you can also research things to do in the city where the conference is held. You will be ready to relax and recharge after those long days of sessions!
When packing for an out-of town conference, even when you are staying for only one night, you may feel compelled to bring everything but the kitchen sink with you. Spend time before the conference deciding what you actually need with you on your trip. Plan out an outfit for each day of the conference. Consider additional outfits you may need for fun activities you have planned. Save some space or pack a collapsible extra bag to bring home items you purchase at the conference.
It is also a good idea to determine what you will need to bring with you for sessions. I recommend bringing your own pen and paper or a tablet device to take notes. Many conferences provide paper and pens in conference bags, but it is best to be prepared.
While at a professional conference, you can make some amazing connections. Attending a professional conference is a great way to meet new people in your field. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and strike up a conversation with others.
It’s helpful to have business cards to share with new connections. They’re also handy for signing up for mailing lists of companies you like, so you don’t have to repeatedly handwrite the same information. If you don’t have any cards from your job, you can easily and fairly inexpensively make your own online or print your own at home using a special perforated cardstock.
If you attend a session that you enjoy, introduce yourself to the presenter and share what you learned from the presentation. Most presenters love it when you tell them what you liked about their presentation and how you will use the information that you learned.
Be on the lookout for social events and informal ways to connect with others during the conference. Many conferences schedule events that are meant to encourage interaction between attendees.
Also check to see if the conference you are attending has a hashtag to follow on Twitter. Meeting new people through social media is a great way to keep the conversation going about the topics and your profession long after the conference is over.
What are your tips for attending a professional conference?
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Great post. I would recommend “Reflect,” too. I find that after I leave a professional development conference, I’m super energized for a few days. Unfortunately, unless I harness that energy, it can start to slip away. I try to blog or journal about the experiences that I felt most excited about. I share any resources with my professional network and do my own research about topics I found interesting. Anything to keep the motivation going so I can continue to get the most out of the conference!