Conference season is always a whirlwind, offering the opportunity to explore new ideas, interact with peers, and get out from behind your desk. More importantly, conferences give you the chance to pilfer a multitude of goodies and supplies from the vendor hall.
But to truly get the most from your conference experience, it’s important to have a plan. As a veteran of more conferences than I can count, here are seven simple tips to make the most out of every experience and conquer your conference.
1. Go in with a plan
Making a plan helps you justify your attendance to your supervisor and get the most out of your experience. Put together an agenda that includes your top session choices and at least one backup for each one in case of an over-packed room or a no-show presenter.
2. Coordinate with others
If you’re attending a conference with other members of your team, try to “divide and conquer.” The point of conference attendance is to branch out, learn new things and meet new people. (Sorry introverts, but it’s true.)
3. Schedule down time
Conferences can be overstimulating, even for the most extraordinary extroverts, so be sure to schedule some down time. Even if it’s just 15 minutes in the morning and afternoon, find a quiet corner where you can collect your thoughts, organize your notes, or read through an interesting handout.
4. Stay in touch
Be prepared to be intentional with your office time. Multi-tasking during a session does a disservice to you and to the presenter, and missing out on networking opportunities (gasp!) to check email may keep you from meeting that peer from another school who can help you with a fix for that issue that’s been nagging you for weeks.
5. Know when and how to make an exit
We’ve all been there: the session that looks good on the agenda, but ends up not living up to the hype. You can usually tell within the first few minutes if a presentation is worth your time. And if it’s not, there’s no harm in making a quick and considerate exit.
6. Be a quick-change artist
Dependent upon the venue, you may need shoes for walking to the convention center then a backup pair for presentations and meetings.
7. Be a hero
With so many people in a confined space, conferences can be draining on you and your electronics. Be sure to pack a portable phone charger, and if you want to make a bunch of new friends, bring along a multi-outlet power strip. You’ll end up meeting more people and having more meaningful conversations than some of the vendors in the expo hall.