A Guide to Getting the Most of Going to Conferences

You signed up to go to the conference. Great! Now you can just figure out what to pack, look over the schedule, pick your sessions and breakouts and go. That is one way to go to a conference and it might be fulfilling for you, but when you start to go to a lot of conferences you begin to wonder if you really are getting anything out of them. Stop wondering and start setting goals and making a real plan.

Tips to Better Conferencing

  • Before the Conference: Figure out your goal for attending.
    • Is it to meet people in your community?
    • Do you want to make an important contact that you know will be there (another attendee, a vendor, a speaker, the organizer, or someone else)
    • Do you want to find new information to accelerate your growth? Trends, tools, tips, and new ideas.
    • Are you trying to find potential partners for your work?
    • Do you need to find customers or a job?
    • Do you just need a weekend to chill out and a conference seems like as good a place as anywhere else.
  • Don't Wander the Conference: Have a plan before the conference -- what sessions, events and breakouts that you plan on attending.
    • Look at the schedule before hand and plot out your plan.
    • Build in time to socialize.
    • Build in time to rest -- taking in a ton of information all day and playing all night can be a bit hard for most folks. Have a plan on taking some downtime too.
    • If you are going with a buddy, split up the sessions and have a debrief after the conference to share what you both learned.
  • Be Ready with Your Info: Have cards ready.
    • It's ok if you are an introvert, but you have to have a way to leave an impression for folks. That can be as simple as a business card or as complex as a leave behind. If they can't connect with you after the event, well, they won't.
  • Take Care of You: Conference food trials and tribulations
    • Conference food isn't always great or even if it is good it just isn't what you are used to eating. If you need a healthy selection of real food you might want to bring it. Stock yourself with whatever you need because more often than not there will be plenty of carbs and the odd green apple, but not a lot of choice.
  • Swag Crap: What to drag home and what not to take.
    • Conferences have really become the place to grab tons of gifts and goodies. Here's the thing though, you don't, probably, need any of it. Leave it. Really. Unless it is something you really love you don't want to have to pay more to ship it or try to stuff it into your already crowded bag.
  • Follow-Up: None of this matters if you don't take the time to follow-up.
    • You made new friends and met new potential partners. Take the next week and follow-up with them. Connect with them on social media platforms. Then send an actual email -- remind them where they met you and what you talked about. This is WHY you came or at least the very best perk of attending. Don't blow it. Follow up!
  • Review and Maybe Repeat: Time to think about next year.
    • Don't leave it up to memory. Take a moment to reflect on the goals you made for the conference and decide if it is something that you want to repeat next year. If you really didn't get something awesome from it, or at least a little awesome, maybe your time and money would be better spent in another way.
Have a great conference tip? Leave it in the comments. Let's make these events the very best we can for ourselves, our companies (if they are sending us) and for those we meet and follow-up with.  Conferences cost a lot of money and time; it is time that you got the most out of them.