Attending a conference that covers a topic you are passionate about is really fun. It’s a great opportunity to increase your knowledge, but most important, it’s an opportunity to grow your personal network and connections to people who share the same interests you do.
That means your work begins way before the conference. Here are some ideas you can use to make the most of your conference experience.
Before the conference
If possible, snag a copy of the conference program and map out your strategy for sessions you absolutely do not want to miss. Make sure you include some sessions that are “possibles” on your list because some sessions get so packed you might not be able to get in.
Take a look at your schedule to see if you can arrive a day early or stay a day after the conference so you have a chance to enjoy the sights and sounds of the area. Planning on packing in some time to be a tourist during the frenzy of a conference is a good idea, but often turns out to be impossible. You’ll get wrapped up in the activities of the conference and may just be way too tired.
Seek out groups that other people have set up on the internet to connect with others prior to the conference. Often someone will take the initiative to set up a group on FaceBook or LinkedIn so conference attendees can get connected before they meet in person. If no one has set up a group, you should do it. A key benefit of this strategy means you will “know” a bunch of people in advance of the conference. By the time you meet them in person; it will be like running into an old friend.
For the people you really want to connect to in person, the best place to make a personal connection prior to your conference will be on Twitter. Twitter has a good people search function you can use to locate them. Once connected, check to see if a hash tag has been established for the conference. If not, set one up. Use the hash tag in all of your tweets so others can easily find and join the conversation.
Make plans in advance to join any scheduled conference meet ups or to meet one-on-one with people you know virtually.
Check with the conference organizers to see if they need people to moderate sessions or work as greeters. Performing these functions is a good way to meet a lot of people.
During the conference
Arrive at your sessions with plenty of time to spare. Find a good seat among other people. If you’re an introverted person, you’ll be tempted to go off in a corner by yourself. Don’t do it. Your experience will be much better if you join in and engage with strangers.
Go with the flow. If a group or individual invites you to a meet up, make sure you attend. Some of the best conference experiences come from impromptu opportunities.
Twitter your experience so others who couldn’t attend can share what’s going on.
After the conference
Connect virtually with the people you met and solidify the relationships you built during the conference.
If you blog, write about your experience. Blog topics could range from the venue for the conference to the people to the topics. You should have enough content to share your thoughts for a long time.
What thoughts do you have about attending a conference so you make the most of it? Please leave your ideas in a comment.
About the Author: Denise O’Berry is a small business expert who provides tools, tips and advice to help small business owners be successful. O’Berry is the author of “Small Business Cash Flow: Strategies for Making Your Business a Financial Success.” Her blog can be found at Just for Small Business.