In these times of increasingly conservative budgets where conference attendance approval can no longer be taken for granted, it’s imperative to make the most of your experience. The more you get out of it that will add value to your department, the greater your chances of securing approval for future conferences. Here’s what I can share with you having just returned from my first conference.
Do Your Research Before You Leave
Conference programs are typically available before you even arrive, so don’t wait until you check-in to review them. Read the descriptions and research key speakers in the weeks prior. This will enable you to determine which sessions to attend so you don’t miss out on a great session just because you didn’t know it was happening. A program preview can also help you more effectively plan your days at the conference and avoid feeling rushed.
Cater to Your Colleagues
Take advantage of those pre-conference materials and share them with your team. Ask your colleagues which sessions they would be interested in, so you can try to get the notes/handouts from the relevant presentations—even if you plan to be elsewhere.
Take the Time to Connect
Ask your coworkers if they know anyone attending the conference you could network with. To make the most of your networking time, start forming connections even before you arrive at the conference destination. Also, take this opportunity to update your LinkedIn profile, and use your new connections to gather more.
Bring the Conference Home
Make sure your legwork at the conference isn’t done in vain. Once you return to office, don’t toss those new business cards into a pile and forget all about them. Solidify your new connections by emailing the contacts and saving their details electronically.
Hopefully, you also took plenty of notes and gathered just as many materials. Don’t let them sit in a folder; type them up, scan them in, and send on to your colleagues to share the inspiration. Go one step further by hosting a post-conference meeting to discuss the new ideas.