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Have you noticed that summer is a busy time for conferences? Whether you’re headed to an event this week or you have one planned for the future, these great tips will help you get the most out of your conference.

1. Select the best sessions – Review the entire conference’s offering as a whole enabling you to see the range of topics included. Pick sessions that help you to develop your skill set both in breadth and depth. If you have the opportunity to look through handouts of the slides in advance, take a minute to thumb through the slides to ensure the sessions are in line with what you anticipated. If you find a session isn’t what you thought, or you are in a session and realize it wasn’t the best choice for you, politely slip out of the session and join another that is more appropriate for you.

2. Flag your notes – Conferences provide a wealth of handouts capturing session notes with space to jot down your own thoughts or takeaways. As you listen to a speaker, use the margin to flag content that you’ll want to reference after you’re home. This will allow you to quickly locate aha’s after the event is over. Feel free to use these or use your own:

  • AI – Action Item
  • R – Resource or Reference
  • Q – Quote
  • W – Wisdom

3. Connect – One of the best parts of a conference is the opportunity for networking. Resist the urge to simply pass out a stack of business cards with brief to no real interaction. Instead opt to engage in conversation with those around you. It’s about connecting. Make the most of the time at a conference to reconnect with people you know, build on existing relationships while establishing new contacts. Participate in social media forums for the conference that allow you to connect to other participants online. After the event be sure to connect via LinkedIn or other social media as appropriate.

4. Make a note – Jot down a brief note on conversations you’ve had or where you met your new contacts so that you don’t lose the context after the event. You can do this on the back of their business card or on a small sticky note that you attach to their card. At the end of the day or on a break is a good time to add notes to cards you’ve received before you have a few days’ worth.

5. Ask questions – Be bold and ask that question that you have. Often someone else in the crowd has the same question but lacks the confidence to ask it. If you have multiple questions, pick the most pressing or highest priority question you have. Don’t monopolize the question time; instead allow others in the room opportunity to ask their questions.

6. Pick three – At the end of the event, look through the action items you’ve marked or jotted down. Pick three that you will accomplish first. Give each a due date and establish a plan to achieve those items. Resist the urge to tackle everything at once. Instead prioritize. Revisit additional action items as you complete your prioritized items.

7. Mark your calendar – Make a date with yourself to revisit what you’ve learned. Pick a date a month or two out from the conference and plan time to read through your notes, assess your progress, and revisit your plan. This will help solidify the knowledge you learned at the conference and help your growth stay on track.

What conference are you headed to? I always love to hear about conference opportunities! As for me…my suitcase isn’t quite packed, but my boarding pass is already printed. After nearly a year of anticipation, first thing tomorrow morning I’m heading to the fabulous Speak Up conference in Grand Rapids.

I’ll be using these tips looking to make the most of the event! Have you tried any of these in the past? Are there any new tips you’ll plan to use the next time you’re at a conference? I’d love to hear from you… click on the comment bubble to join the conversation.

And of course… if you’re headed to Speak Up, I look forward to seeing you there!

Susan Call - Author

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