How to Maximize Your Conference Experience

How to Maximize Your Conference Experience

By Jill Vitiello

Attending conferences can be worthwhile or a waste of time—it all depends on how you approach them. If you want to build a professional network, advance your subject matter expertise, and extend your knowledge of available resources, use our three-step approach for making the most of your conference attendance.

Before You Go

  • Review the agenda. Set a learning goal and select workshops or tracks that will deliver the professional development you want. When choosing which sessions to attend, consider both the topic and the presenter.
  • Find out who’s going. The people you meet at conferences are just as valuable as the content that’s delivered. Check with the conference planner for a list of people who are attending. If that’s not available, check social media platforms in the weeks leading up to the conference to see who is posting. Connect with attendees before arriving at the venue and schedule time to meet one-on-one.

Once You’re There

  • Introduce yourself. Conferences are the time to meet new people, so make it a point to introduce yourself to at least three new people. Read our tips on authentic networking to gain confidence.
  • Participate in the conversation. The speakers and panelists at any conference are key experts in your industry, so be an active participant. Ask a question, offer a comment, or frame a challenge.
  • Venture into new territory. Attend a session on an unfamiliar topic. You may uncover a new interest, resource, or opportunity you might never have discovered.
  • Stay organized. Conferences are information avalanches, so take notes. Write down three key points or takeaways from each session you attend. Note action items for following up on ideas the speakers presented.

Back at the Office

  • Follow up. While you are attending the conference, or immediately after, invite the people you’ve met to join your LinkedIn network. Send an email, letting your new contacts know you enjoyed meeting them.
  • Pay it forward. Share the information you gained at the conference with your coworkers. Invite colleagues to a lunch and learn or informal webinar. Post decks from the conference in a shared folder and write an email or post on the top three things you learned at the conference.

I’ll be speaking at three conferences in October. Join me at the IABC Heritage Region conference in Columbus, OH, from Oct. 9–11, the IABC Southern Region conference in Atlanta, GA, from Oct. 13–14, and the Communications Leadership Exchange conference in New York, NY, from Oct. 20–21.

Want me to deliver my presentation “Communicate to Win” to your group? Email me at jill.vitiello@vtlo.com.

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