Are you making the most of your conference experiences? Conferences can be valuable tools for gaining knowledge and learning about innovative ideas in your field. Implementing processes before, during, and after the show can make a huge impact on the outcomes you have following a conference. By analyzing our own team members’ conference experiences, we have identified the following steps for maximizing overall success.
Before the Conference
Identifying conferences that provide the best opportunities for professional and personal growth is critical in ensuring you make the most of your investment. Learning more about who will be attending the conference, reviewing the program for relevant topics, and planning how your time will be best spent can be helpful in determining the conference that is right for you.
Although logistics can seem as simple as confirming travel and where you will stay, these arrangements can be key in optimizing your experience. Being on-site at the conference venue provides opportunities to network and strike up conversations not only during the daily program, but after hours, as well. These can be invaluable for professional growth.
It is always a good idea to review your options early. Flights and hotel reservations can fill up quickly; booking early is a great way to lock in your schedule and reduce spending through early-bird registration rates, reduced hotel room rates, and other perks.
Taking the time to analyze what you are hoping to gain from a conference and setting goals will not only help keep yourself accountable, it will allow you to determine issues you are seeking to solve and knowledge you want to take away. Keep these goals in mind throughout the conference in order to provide an opportunity to check in and see if you are on track for obtaining your desired outcomes.
During the Conference
Prioritize Your Time—
Conference programs can be overwhelming if you do not structure your schedule and map out the events in which you want to participate. Which sessions will provide the knowledge you are seeking? Review your options in advance and plan where you want to be for each day. Be sure to include time for networking, impromptu plans, and some downtime.
Throughout the conference, there will be many opportunities to build your network. Take advantage of activities offered, from morning yoga to evening dine-arounds, to get together with other attendees and engage in conversation. The more you participate, the more you will build new relationships.
Reflect and Debrief—
After the hustle and bustle of each day, it is important to take time to reflect on your experiences. Capturing notes, contact information, and other details while they are fresh in your memory will help you be more successful following the conference. You will be able to put together a detailed report of ideas and information to share with your team as well as follow-up opportunities to pursue.
After the Conference
Finding new solutions and inspiration is a main objective for attending a conference. Find time to get together with your team and share this information. How might it be applicable to the team’s goals? This is also a good way to evaluate whether the conference met your expectations, or if you may want to look into other options in the future.
You will likely have several new connections from the conference. Invest time in building those connections into working relationships. Those contacts can be a valuable resource for helping you to continue to think differently and share new ideas.
As you gear up for your next conference, explore how you may be able to gain more from the experience. We welcome you to download the planning checklist below to assist with your planning process.