You want to make the most of your time at a conference. But how? With a long list of to-dos, an endless roster of people to meet, and enough sessions to become a blur, is there a way to maximize your time and make the experience stick? I’m going to share my top five tips to make the most out of your next industry conference.
Pick Sessions and Review the Agenda
Some of the first questions I ask myself before attending a conference are, “What are my goals? What am I hoping to learn and accomplish?” If I’m looking to expand my knowledge on how to move upward in my career as a woman in mortgage, I’ll look for sessions that include a panel of top industry women leaders who will provide their insights on the mortgage industry, stories about their careers and tips on how to succeed and lead. By setting clear goals, I can start planning my agenda to support those goals. Find sessions with a compelling speaker and relevant subject matter. Familiarizing yourself with the conference program is essential to making your agenda work for you. Set a clear plan of action.
Make Networking a Priority
Making the right connections with your peers is always high priority for an industry conference. I think growing your social circle takes the right balance of chance and preparation. Plan ahead by reaching out to your peers attending to make arrangements to meet. But stay flexible and open to bumping into new people. You may be surprised what unexpected networking opportunities might pop up. Introduce yourself to others before and after sessions and give yourself time to network. Some of the best conversations are impromptu.
Bring the Essentials
If you’re anything like me (waiting until the last minute to finish a round of laundry, and staying up past midnight to pack), then packing is one of the most important to-dos on your list. Whether you like to prepare or wait until the last minute, you can’t afford to forget the essentials. Some essentials you won’t want to forget include business cards, your laptop and phone charger, and a notebook or similar for taking notes. I also think it’s a great idea to bring along a power strip so you can charge multiple things at once without taking up an entire outlet.
Be Mentally Prepared
You’re likely to be asked, “What do you do?” multiple times throughout the conference. Mentally prepare by preparing a short, concise elevator pitch and thinking up some simple go-to conversation starters. You can also prepare by using social media to connect with other conference goers. Most conferences have a hashtag that makes it easy to keep track of who’s going and what’s happening while you’re there. Remember to get a good night’s sleep so you’re alert and ready to go.
Don’t let the connections you made during the conference fade away. Follow up with your new connections on LinkedIn or other social media, a nice “Great to meet you” email, or a quick phone call. You can even go old school with a thank you card.
I hope these tips will help you get the most out of your time at an industry conference. By setting goals and having a clear plan of action, you can leave having gained valuable knowledge and new connections.
What are your favorite tips for conference goers? Comment below or let me know on LinkedIn.