Over the years, I have attended dozens of conferences, from a couple hundred attendees to tens of thousands.
Conferences provide a wonderful opportunity to network with like-minded individuals, gain insight into new trends, sharpen your skills, and inspire you to achieve more when you return to the office. Some people love conferences and are in their element throughout the whole event. However, for others, conferences can seem overwhelming. Whether you love them or hate them, here are key tips to capture the most value out of attending.

Before The Event – Be Prepared

  • Read the schedule and materials before hand to create a plan of action
  • Know who is attending the conference and do some research on people you want to meet. This will give you talking points when you meet them.
  • Make a list of objectives. Who do you want to meet? What do you want to learn? What products/services do you want to gain more information on?

At the Event – Master It

  • Be on time
    You/your company has probably paid a lot of money for you to attend so take advantage of every second of it.
  • Meet as many people as possible.
    Network, Network, Network! You never know when these connections will be important in the future.
  • Socialize at lunch and evening events
    Barriers between all-stars in the industry and executive team members decrease at these events and allow you to reach out to those you may not have the opportunity to during the conference itself
  • Engage in Presentations
    Sit up front
    Take notes
    Ask questions
  • Engage in social media
    We live in the digital age. Make sure to take advantage of hashtags and tweeting at conferences. This is a great way to make yourself stand out. Thank speakers, talk about new ideas you have learned, and connect with as many people as possible through retweeting and mentions.
  • Conquer the tradeshow
    Talk to as many vendors as possible at the tradeshow. You never know when you will find a new tool or discover an emerging trend.
  • Thank speakers and shake their hands
    You would be surprised how few of people do this. Remember, you want to stand out. Tell them how great the presentation was ask them a question. Also, make sure to connect with them on social media platforms.
  • It is not about the food
    Really, it is not. Do not be the person that goes straight for the snack table and then hides in the corner with their plates of food.
  • Leave an impact
    Make sure it is a good one. People meet hundreds of new people at conferences. Figure out ways for people to remember you. Have an interesting personal pitch, a cool business card, or hand out something cool for them to keep.
  • Hobnob with people you aspire to be
    At every conference, there are always a couple of all-stars. Get to know them and ask them questions. Tell them that you admire them. If you only network with people at your current level, you will not be as driven to advance.

Related: The Art of Networking and the Key to a Great First Impression

After the Event

  • Take time to process what you learned at the conference
    Take out your notes and think about what you wrote. Did you miss anything?
  • Apply what you learn
    Everyone is on a high when they leave a conference however very few actually take action when they return to the office. Use the new ideas and tools gained to become more successful.
  • Follow up
    When you return to the office, make sure to connect with the people you promised you would. Industries are actually smaller than you might think. Establishing conference friends and adding to your professional network will help you in the long-run. A key to this is taking notes on the back of people’s business cards on topics to follow up on. This will make it so much easier when you return to the office.

Now that you have the tools to get the most out of conferences you attend, go out and enjoy the experience. Conferences can be a ton of fun and make you standout in your industry from those that do not see the value in them and do not attend. Remember, conferences are a great way to see what is coming next, before others do. So enjoy the next conference you attend and really make the most of it.