I recently wrote about the benefits to you and your employer of attending a professional development conference. Here are five tips for getting the most from the experience:
- If you get a roster of attendees prior to the conference, go through it and highlight the names of people you want to meet. This allows you to be more deliberate in your networking efforts and keeps you focused.
- When you get the conference agenda, pick the events you want to attend. Many conferences will publish the agenda in advance and some even offer apps to help you plan your experience. Arrive with a plan that will allow you to maximize on the learning and networking opportunities.
- Be sure to attend as many of the networking events as you can, including breakfasts and after hours events hosted by sponsors. Often, if you visit the exhibit booth of the company throwing the event you can gain an entry pass. As you network, think of FORM – family, occupation, recreation, and motivation; if you can get people to talk about those things you’ll have made a connection.
- Don’t skip the breakout sessions or round table discussions. These smaller groups are ideal times to find the people you want to meet, get to know the key influencers in the room, and possibly join in on the conversation where you can smartly make your voice heard.
- Document your connections as soon as you can. Business cards are still a staple at conferences; arrive with plenty and share them with people you meet, presenters you’d like to connect with, and exhibitors who you’d like to contact you. The conference may have an app to help you share contact information. You can also write names down and use the conference location wifi to connect with people you meet on LinkedIn; always personalize your invite and let the person know where you met.
I want to acknowledge my colleague Barbara Ellis who contributed her thoughts to these tips. I welcome your additional tips – please share them in the comments section.
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