September 10, 2013
5 Tips for Getting the Most Out of a Conference
You’ve escaped the office for a few days. Fantastic! However, you’re not on vacation. You’re attending a conference. Just as a well-planned leisure trip provides you with a refreshed mind and a recharged feeling, you can come away from your conference with the same positive experience. Here are five tips to help you squeeze as much as you can from this time away from the daily grind.
Make Sure People Know Your Name
Conferences demand a certain etiquette. For example, you really ought to wear a name tag. Yes, it’s a little goofy, but wearing your name and company on a badge is like extending an invitation to other people to strike up a conversation with you. And hey, you might make a valuable business connection or meet your future boss.
Be Polite to Everyone
Don’t sit in the front of a session or middle of the row if you have to leave early. It’s just poor form. And don’t spend every out-of-session moment glued to your smartphone or tablet, even if it’s a tech conference. That’s like showing up for a party, and then proceeding to crack open a volume of Shakespeare while the rest of the gang eats, drinks, and talks.
Get Social with Your Conference Experience
Use social media to enhance your conference experience. Create a funny Tumblr related to tech conferences and then tweet it using conference hashtags. Find out which hashtags conference participants are using, and don’t be afraid to invent your own (#freetechswag). Or, use Twitter to orchestrate an in-person meet-up so you can put a face with the Twitter handles and network.
Use social media to reach out to people at the conference you’ve yet to meet in person. If you have a list of attendees, send them a tweet or Facebook message ahead of time and ask if they can meet you between sessions. It’s a way to network with someone without waiting to bump into them in the hallway.
When you meet someone and have a nice chat, ask if you can “friend” them on Facebook and add them on LinkedIn. Doing this will strengthen your connection to this person and help you get to know each other better.
Choose Your Sessions and Seminars Wisely
There’s nothing worse than being stuck in a snoozer session at a tech conference. Just as you’d make sure to hear Pastor Ed Young speak at a religious conference, for example, find the high-profile speakers and arrive to their sessions early.
Outline a handful of must-attend sessions that directly relate to your work. Develop a second tier of sessions that could expand your knowledge into new areas. By prioritizing, you’ll know which sessions to blow off if you want to extend a hallway conversation.
Use the Buddy System
If you bond with a certain group of people early in the conference or go with co-workers, set up a private Facebook page where members share notes, ask questions, and arrange meetings. Group members may split into different sessions, then tell each other what they learned.
When you get back to the office, the conference can seem like a distant memory. Review your notes, new business cards, and action items right away so that you’ll make the most of your out-of-office experience.