Top 10 Tips for Attending Conferences

In the spirit of ACS attending the recent CASE conference in Baltimore, here are a few tips for making the most of your next professional conference!

1.  Justify your trip.  It’s always easier to justify the trip to your employer if you are representing your institution/organization/company as a speaker on best practices.  If you aren’t able to present, offer to formally share your discoveries/knowledge/contacts with colleagues when you return.

2.  Look at the sessions in advance.  Map out the ones that look like they would have the most impact on your work.  If there are two concurrent sessions that look great, sit in the back of the room so you can scoot out of one to get to the other.  See who’s coming and who you want to connect with.  Even better, connect with them before the conference to set up a time to meet while there.

3.  Network.  Yes, this is an obvious one, but sometimes the sessions themselves aren’t the value in the conference – it’s the connections you make while you are there.  If you’re an introvert, networking can exhausting. Stick to one-on-one conversations and take a break every once in a while to recharge.

4. Recharge.  Conferences can really renew your enthusiasm for your work and provide inspiration – not to mention give you a break from your usual routine.  While attending the social outings is important for networking and having some fun, also use this opportunity to rest, relax, and recharge.

5. Pack your bag.  Check the weather in the city where you are heading. I once wore sandals on the plane to a conference in Chicago in early April.  Read: freezing. I ended up at the store buying a coat and shoes! Bring layers – hotels are often cold. Wear comfy shoes.  Bring a notebook, snacks, water around with you.

6. Divide & conquer.  If you are headed to a conference with colleagues try not to attend all the same sessions.  Divide up and then share the information later.

7. Pack business cards. Duh.  See #3.  Even better – make notes on other people’s business cards to jog your memory as to what you connected about.

8.  Create content.  Utilize your time at the conference to enhance your personal brand.  Tweet, facebook, blog… whatever tool you use, let people know where you are and what you’re learning.

9. Talk to vendors.  At least the ones that look promising. Instead of having to do hour long phone conversations you have them all in one place and at your fingertips.  Gather all the information you can. Plus, sometimes they have fun prizes and raffles!

10. Maximize your time.  Why not combine a few business trips and schedule client meetings or other events around your conference attendance and schedule?

Bonus: Put on your out-0f-office email to let people know you may not reply immediately to their inquiry.  That way you don’t have to spend the entire time on your smartphone.

If you get a few good nuggets of information, a couple of great contacts, and feel inspired to go back to the office, consider the conference a win!

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