Get The Most Out Of Conferences With These Tips

Get The Most Out Of Conferences

Conferences are such amazing opportunities to connect with like-minded professionals.  It really is the dream of anyone who is ambitious to grow their own professional learning network.  But sometimes taking the first step is difficult.  So, here are a few ways to make the most of your conference experience.

(1) Say Hi

Making personal connections is the number one way to make sure your conference investment goes far.  No connection will be made until a conversation starts, so just say “hi” and see where things go from there.  My favorite conversation starters are “Have you been to this conference before?” or “Have you heard anything about this speaker?”  It’s pretty amazing what vibrant conversations have come from a simple introduction.

(2) Talk To The Presenters

If you really like what a presenter talks about, tell them!  Right after the session may not be the best time.  If they are a popular speaker, they may be flooded with comments after their talk.  But if you can meet with them at a quieter time, they may agree to chat with you.  Remember that flattery is the way to someone’s heart, and few people will turn down a gracious offer to coffee or lunch.

(3) Keep A Twitter List

Aside from all of the people you can meet at conferences, Twitter should be your second best friend.  Get the Twitter handles of the people you meet, and also of others tweeting at the conference.  To make sure that you can remember how you met these people, and why you want to follow them, keep your contacts in a Twitter list.

(4) Follow and Tweet Conference Hashtags

Another reason why Twitter is a must-have for conferences is how content can be shared and followed with hashtags.  If you tweet using the hashtag of the conference, people are more likely to engage with your post and respond with a comment. 

If you are not able to attend a session, get the particular hashtag for the session, and use a hashtag aggregator, like Tweet Deck, to follow the Twitter conversation.  This will be useful later when combing through your notes of all that you learned at the conference.

(5) Go To The Happy Hours

Does someone really need to tell you to go to a happy hour?  Really, go to the conference happy hours!  They are a great way to network and make those lasting connections.  If you like chatting with someone in particular, add them to your Twitter list, and connect with them on LinkedIn.  They will be your keys to further deepening your own professional learning network.

(6) Visit The Exhibit Hall

You may be more of a browser than a shopper, but some of the deals in conference exhibit halls are difficult to pass up.  Signing up for deals before the crowds may save you thousands of dollars.  Even if you don’t want to shell out some dough, the exhibit hall can be a great place to see what the industry has to offer.  It can also be a fun place to participate in contests or games to win prizes.

(7) Sleep When You Get Home

If you are making the most of your conference experience, you will want to go to bed early and sleep late. Don’t! There will be time to sleep once you get home. Remember this may be your one time a year to level up on professional learning and deepen all of the professional networking that you love to do.

(8) Follow Up With Contacts

Once you get home, and yes, after you’ve slept, make sure that you follow up with your contacts.  It’s a good idea to shoot them a kind note to follow up on a conversation that you had.  Maybe you can send them a reference article to deepen the intellectual connection that you made.   

(9) Blog About What You Learned

Blogging not only makes you look like you know something, but it’s also a good way to connect with others.  In a professional setting you can refer others to a short article that you wrote. If you push your blog article to social, it will also further the conversation about the professional topics you learned about at the conference.

In Conclusion

There are so many great ways to network and learn at a conference.  Make sure that you chat with lots of people, and use Twitter while you’re at the conference.  Sleep when you get home.  Then follow up with your conference contacts, and continue the learning process by blogging and pushing your content out to social.