Attending an upcoming conference or seminar? Professionals in nearly all fields attend gatherings like these for a number of reasons: some go to network, others to educate themselves, and many attend simply because they are obligated to do so. Whatever the reason, make sure you are getting the most out of your time—and money—while there. Remember that this is one of a few opportunities throughout the year where you’ll be surrounded by experts in your field. Don’t miss out on the chance to learn, benchmark, and network, network, network. Keep these pointers in mind before you go:
- Know the conference. Understand who is attending, and do background research on the sessions and tracks that spark your interest. Use your time wisely, as agendas are often overbooked. Plan ahead to decide who you want to hear speak, and who you can skip in favor of other activities.- For example, if you’re an executive at a wealth management firm, you may rather listen to a session on practice management than on how to begin a career as an advisor.
- Mingle. Get there EARLY and mingle with attendees during the morning breakfast. Saying “Hello” is the first step in networking.
- Get personal. Talk about what others enjoy in addition to their professional lives. Creating personal connections makes business relationships more memorable.
- Be a thought leader. Listen carefully to each presenter, and take active notes on every session that you participate in. If the opportunity exists (and especially if it’s on a topic you want to be known for), ask an intelligent question after stating your name and who you’re with. If the speaker was particularly engaging, be sure to introduce yourself after the session and let them know what stood out to you about it. If necessary, find out how you can collaborate with them.
- Have fun. People tend to want to engage with those who seem like they are enjoying themselves.
- Network digitally. Make your presence known on social media platforms. Make announcements about the sessions you’re attending, and the major takeaways. Continue conversations with attendees by using the conference hash tag on Twitter.
- Continue the relationship. Ask for a business card from those who you’ve had conversations with, and pass out yours, too. Follow up with individuals you meet and invite them to coffee, lunch or happy hour to learn more about how they conduct business.
- Become smarter. Apply what you took from the conference to your professional and/or personal life. Write relevant, related blogs or bring forth ideas to company leaders based on the trends you found to be most interesting.
Professional conferences exist for those who want to advance their careers. If you’re attending one, make sure you are taking advantage of the opportunity to learn, grow, and share.