Friday, January 18, 2013

Making the Most of a Conference

Almost every industry and profession offers conferences. They are a great way to keep current on what is happening, learn what the future holds, discover new ideas, and make new contacts in your industry or profession. Some people are fortunate enough to work for a company that will pay to send them to a conference. If you aren’t that lucky but can shoulder the personal expense and time away, you should make it a point to look into attending a conference.

Plan ahead
To get the most out of a conference, plan for it. Review conference materials to determine what speakers and lectures or workshops you want to attend. In addition to looking for interesting sessions, consider those that would be most helpful to your current job or career. Factor in the expertise and delivery style of the speaker. Most importantly, make sure the content of the conference sessions is worth your time and money.

Capture key messages and ideas
Conferences are typically loaded with content and ideas, and it can be daunting trying to recall the content once you return to the office. To help with this, capture notes or handouts during the session, and if there’s time, recap immediately after a session.

Network while you’re there
Conferences are one of the best ways to broaden your professional network, so take advantage of all the opportunities. Before attending, prepare a 60-second “elevator pitch” of who you are and what you do professionally. Take in some of the off-hour social events, which tend to be more informal but designed for networking. Interact with those you know, but remember, your focus should be on meeting new people. Gather business cards from people you would like to stay in touch with, and then reach out to them within a week or two of the conference.

Planning enables you to be fully engaged at the conference so that you come away further energized and even more excited about your profession and/or industry.

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