Ten Tips To Get The Most Out Of Your Next Conference

Ten Tips To Get The Most Out Of Your Next Conference

We are all busy. Most of us have more on our plate than we would like, but there are some things we just need to do, no matter our harried schedule. Continuing to learn is one of those things.

While online learning is a great way to brush up on our skills and add some vital info and lessons to our repertoire, there are some distinct advantages to being with other people. Going to conferences can be a rich and rewarding (and profitable) endeavor.

With that in mind, here are some tips for making the most of your next conference:

Pick the right conference.

After years of attending mega, medium and small conferences, I’m now opting for the small. I find those with around 100 attendees give me what I need to truly network well and make true connections. Experiment a little and find what works best for you.

Look the part.

Think through who you are and what you aspire to be. Then choose your conference attire carefully. Find a clothier you trust and seek their advice. As the saying goes, you only have one chance to make a great first impression.

Arrive at the talk a little early.

I am a fan of showing up early. If you get there (wherever there is) a tad before everyone starts filing in, you give some space for something special to happen. Stories abound about people connecting because they were both early-birds and struck up a gratifying conversation. The great Frances Hesselbein, former leader of The Girl Scouts, tells a story about when she met Peter Drucker at one of his talks. She arrived early to his presentation, and lo and behold, there was Mr. Drucker. She met him and had a chance to speak to him and they became fast friends. For all of the years after that Peter Drucker donated two to three days a year of consulting to The Girls Scouts. Thank goodness she arrived early!

Sit up front.

Even in college, I sat up front because it helped me absorb what my professors were teaching. It helps you stay engaged, and if you have a question or an idea you can easily be seen.

These days, as a conference attendee I have uncovered a newer reason: It allows me to provide moral support to presenters by providing eye-contact and occasionally nodding my head in agreement. It’s been my experience that if you cross paths with presenters, they will thank you for your support.

Stand and ask a question.

Raising your hand and asking a pertinent question gets you noticed and even helps the speaker. You’ll often hear the presenter say “Glad you brought that up…” and proceed to expand on the answer to your question. Always present you question with respect and humility. You can win over an audience this way and attendees will seek you out at breaks.

Share a story.

Go to conferences armed with stories and anecdotes. When invited, tell yours. The best stories show your humility. People love it when you can poke a little fun at yourself.

Smile.

Have you noticed when you give someone a smile they are very likely to smile back? A smile opens the door to friendly banter and before you know it, a conversation begins.

Be kind.

Holding the elevator door and pulling a chair over so another attendee can join your table are just two of the many ways you can provide small kindnesses at a conference. These gestures tell the world who you are.

Jot a note on a business card.

I find it helps to write a little note to yourself once you have received a business card from someone. This way, when you get back home you can remember them and any next steps, etc.

Follow up quickly.

If you’ve committed to send a fellow attendee information, do it quickly. There is nothing that delights a new acquaintance more than receiving what you promised before they expect it. It gets their attention and makes you memorable.

Then, stay in touch. LinkedIn is a great way to remember birthdays, congratulate promotions, etc.

Forbes.com Contributor

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