Attending a Conference? Read This!

Me presenting at The Glint Summit in Sonoma, California in November

This fall I had the opportunity to speak at the OD Network Conference in Chicago, Illinois and the Glint Summit in Sonoma, California. For each of my sessions, I thought a lot about the content that I was sharing. I made sure that my sessions were both engaging and aesthetically pleasing for the audience.

As presenters at conferences, we are very thoughtful about the experience; however I have found that we are less diligent when it comes to participating as attendees. Here are nine tips to help you make the most out of your next experience as a conference participant.

1. If you are attending a conference it is important to think about what you want to get out of the experience. What is your purpose in going to the event? Are you trying to get smart on a particular subject? Are you looking to expand your professional network? Are you attending to further relationships with people you already know? Being clear about your purpose will help you plan your time while at the conference.

2. Look at the attendee and speaker list in advance. Are there people you want to meet with while you are live together at the conference? It is always great to schedule time for breakfast or drinks prior to arriving at the conference as it is often hectic to plan once you are there. If you can’t schedule a face-to-face, make sure you’re following (and engaging with) them on social media throughout the conference.

3. If the conference is not in your hometown, take advantage of the travel experience. Think about who else lives in that city who you could see while you are in the area. Do you have clients, colleagues or potential business connections who live in that market who you could see?

During the Conference:
4. Make sure you check out the hashtag for the conference on all social channels. Engage in the online conversation to further enhance your conference experience, to get to know other attendees, and to continue the dialog once a particular session has ended.

5. At many conferences there are concurrent sessions. Sometimes you find yourself in a situation where the content is simply not informative nor is it interesting. With that in mind, do not forget about The Law of Two Feet, which says if you are not getting anything useful out of the session that you are currently in, use your two feet, and go to another session!

6. Attend meals, happy hours and other informal social events. This is often where the most valuable networking occurs rather than in the more organized structure of the conferences.

7. Often times after the conference, you come back to the office with many learnings and exciting opportunities. Make sure you note all of these items and then prioritize your to-do list. Did you meet any potential clients or prospects that you need to follow up with right away? What else is time sensitive? What can be put on the back burner?

8. If you were fortunate enough to learn some helpful information during the conference, make sure to educate the rest your team upon your return. Share key insights during your next in-person meeting, on Workplace or via email.

9. Don’t forget to connect with any new people you met at the conference on LinkedIn. As we all meet a lot of people at conferences, it is a best practice to write a personal note in your LinkedIn invitation.

Do you have any must-do items when you attend a conference? If so, let’s continue the conversation in the comments below or on Twitter at @melissabarry.