Much of my life is spent at conferences and conventions, so I have some pretty good insight into how to get the most out of every conference. They can be a really good experience or a big waste of time – you decide which. With some planning and effort, you can gain insight into your industry, meet great contacts and have fun. Here are some of my tips to maximize each convention.
1. After you register, use the conference planner to plan your itinerary. Review the sessions and then hone down to a day-by-day agenda–including alternatives in case your preferred session is full. If you are going to the conference with colleagues you should attend different sessions to ensure you have it all covered.
2. If pre-registration is not required, have at least two sessions in mind for every time slot. If you get to one and the room is overflowing or the topic isn’t what you thought it would be, head over to your second choice. Conventions and conferences are a great way to learn more about areas outside your expertise, so consider signing up for them.
3. Check out the exhibitor list and create a list of “must-see” booths. You will be able to cover the convention center more efficiently and still have time to wonder around. Spend enough time at each booth to gather the information you need and talk with the exhibitors.
4. Stay with the group for meals, and try to sit with people outside your normal network. Meeting new people and sharing information expands your connections and sphere of influence.
Collect and offer business cards, talk about relevant professional issues and learn a bit about the person.
5. Take notes on sessions you attend. Suggest to your boss that each person who attends the convention present what they have learned back to the office staff. Sharing what heard and saw helps reinforce the material and is expands the ROI of the trip.
6. Have fun…but not too much fun! Unfortunately I have seen too many attendees miss significant convention time because they partied to much. Pace yourself and get plenty of sleep.
Oh, and one more thing: If I’m presenting at your conference be sure to come see me, I’m sure you’ll learn a lot and have fun, too!