How to Attend a Conference (and Make It Worth Your Time) – Part 2

Yesterday, you learned how to select a conference that aligns with your professional development goals. Hopefully, you’ll take the plunge and register for a conference soon. Here are a few ways to maximize your experience and get the most out of your investment.

1. Fully Engage

For most people, work responsibilities don’t disappear when you leave the office. If it’s not feasible to disconnect completely, try scheduling “office hours” while you’re away. Set a window of time each day for answering calls and emails, whether it be at the start or end of the day or on a lunch break. Communicate your availability to clients and coworkers before you go. Carving out specific time in your day to attend to work will allow you to focus fully on the content being presented.

2. Network

Don’t be shy. I guarantee you have at least one thing in common with your fellow attendees. After all, you’re at the same conference.

Need a conversation starter? Ask what other conferences they’ve attended and enjoyed. Jot down one note from your conversation on their business card, so you remember who’s who when you get home. Then, follow up with a quick note on LinkedIn. Or, if you made some new friends, set up a Slack channel to share your takeaways from the event.

3. Spend Downtime Constructively

It’s easy to hide in your hotel room and decompress after a long day of learning. But you could do some research before leaving home and scout out potential field trips. Are there any agencies in the area where you could schedule a tour? A nearby client who’s available to grab dinner?

Are you spending considerable time in transit? Bring along a book related to the conference material or written by the keynote speaker.

4. Divide & Conquer

If you’ve had to good fortune of attending along with coworkers, it can be tempting to stick together. While there should be plenty of opportunities to bond with your team, don’t hesitate to split up if needed.

If several interesting sessions are happening at the same time, each person can attend a different one. Then sync up later in the day to share your notes. Upon your return, schedule a breakfast or coffee date with the conference crew to discuss what you’ve learned.

5. Share Your Learnings

Upon your return, share your newfound knowledge with your team. Blogging about your experience or hosting a lunch-and-learn will not only cement your learnings but also help demonstrate the value of your time out of office.