Earlier this week, I wrote an article that laid out a few reasons why you should consider attending a professional conference. If you haven’t checked it out, please do. It may seem like a big investment of time and money, but I promise it will be worth it. Given the fact that I am in attendance at one this weekend, gives backing to my previous statement.
Let’s say that you have followed my advice and are getting set up to go now. Registering is the easy part, a few clicks and you are in. Now what should you do to prepare? There are a lot of resources out there that will give a myriad of ideas. While they are helpful, I want to boil it down for you. Here are a few important preparation ideas you won’t want to miss out on.
1. Study the Schedule and Make a Plan
This first step is sometimes overlooked, but it can pay its gold in dividends. Thoroughly examine the speakers, breakout sessions, meal breaks (mmmm), and any other important information. Often there are extra perks for registering early and signing up for alternative activities. Take some time to know what is going on and familiarize yourself with your surroundings. This could include connecting with speakers ahead of time on Twitter, planning break periods or meals on the town or making a list of specific sessions you want to attend. The more planning you do ahead of time, the more confident you will feel while attending.
2. Order Business Cards, Print Resumes or Update LinkedIn
It may seem old fashioned, but business cards are still in popular demand. Nowadays printing is fairly inexpensive and you can be as creative as you want. Don’t overlook this opportunity to showcase your brand and personality. It may just help you leave that lasting impression. Bringing a few copies of your resume may be useful if there are opportunities that present themself. Don’t force it, but don’t ignore the possibility. Finally, make sure your LinkedIn is up to date. If you’re interested in some tips for that, check my article on maximizing your profiles.
3. Take Notes and Send out a few Tweets
Depending on your learning style, taking notes may be really helpful. Sometimes I find that by doing this you can recall greater amounts of information in shorter periods of time.There is also another reason why you should take notes, but it ties in with your post-conference regimen (stay tuned next week for my tips on that). For those who are so inclined, Twitter can be of great value at the conferences. Many people with share their thoughts or favorite quotes from the speaker. This will benefit everyone. You will get to see what happened in other sessions. Your friends will benefit from what you learned in yours. And lastly, you can continue to build your network through Twitter.
4. Take Time for Yourself (As Necessary)
You just finished lunch and are sitting in the next session. Strangely enough it seems to get darker, as your eyelids unconsciously close. You can’t help it. Oftentimes at conferences you don’t sleep much because you’re trying to make the most of it. Sometimes, the best advice is to just take some time for yourself. Go take a nap or see the sights. Your mind will be able to absorb more once you are awake and refreshed.
5. Stay Organized
I loved this tip from Business.com. While are the conference your mind is in the game and sometimes won’t think of the long-term. The article suggested, “Instead of getting overwhelmed, develop a method of information-gathering that will be easy to unpack when you get home: write down memorable parts of each session, key takeaways, names of participants you networked with and how you can follow up.”
When you determine what you need to do to prepare, keep in mind of your goals in attending. This will cater what is most important to you. Don’t get stressed, but just be smart and plan ahead. Once you are there, just enjoy the ride.
There are so many good ideas out there for making the most of your preparation. Try looking at a few other articles that I found helpful, including: 14 Helpful Tips for Getting the Most Out of a Conference, 10 Ways to Make the Most Out of a Conference, or 8 Tips to Get the Most Out of That Next Conference.
What works for you? Comment below and share your best ideas for conference prep.