Making the Most of Your Work Conference
A work conference should be an event where you gain skills, knowledge and meaningful connections with others in your industry. But you can’t just show up to one of them — whether it’s a workshop, seminar, presentation, trade show or something else.
It’s necessary to put forth a significant amount of effort before, during and after the gathering.
Thoroughly Research Potential Events
Every year, conferences attract professionals from every industry imaginable, and those people represent diverse interests, goals and experiences. That means some work conferences will be highly appropriate for you, but others may not be so relevant.
Here are three steps to adequately research conferences of interest.
Use Keywords Wisely
Entering a search query, such as “work conferences in [city, state],” won’t be specific enough to generate the most accurate results. Be as specific as possible when choosing keywords for your search. For example, if you’re an artist manager working in the entertainment industry, a search string such as “conferences for music business managers in Los Angeles” could get the outcome you want.
Otherwise, consider searching for conference directories related to your profession. Some groups feature such lists on their websites. The International Bar Association has a specific page dedicated to conference listings for legal professionals.
Look for Professional Enrichment Opportunities
Many organizations offer chances for attendees to go to workshops and conferences and come away with professional certifications. EdTechTeam is one example. It provides professional-oriented events for teachers who want to use Apple products to enhance their teaching practices and build core skills recognized through the Apple Teacher program.
If you focus your search by looking for options that increase your professional qualifications, it’s one way to get the most out of your experience. However, if you’re taking that route, find out whether you need to buy study materials or otherwise prepare for classes or testing that happens during the event.
Learn the Specifics
Before settling on a particular conference that seems appropriate, dig into the essential details about the meeting to determine whether it’s a feasible event. For example, ensure the costs are within your budget. Calculate expenses associated with a hotel stay, rental car and meals beyond admission to the conference.
Also, some event coordinators offer letters you can print out and take to your boss. They outline the benefits of attending a particular work conference and could be useful in convincing your superior to allow time off and potentially cover all or some of the costs required to go.
Strategically Prepare for the Event
After picking conferences to attend, people must get ready for what’s ahead. After taking several well-chosen actions, they should feel confident and prepared to learn.
Choose the Best Way to Take Notes
While attending keynote speeches, panel discussions and breakout sessions, you’ll be engaged in a continuous learning process. Even if you have an excellent memory, it’s best to come up with a note-taking technique to use throughout the event.
Consider using a notes app, especially one that stores content in the cloud. Or, if you’re more old-school in your methods, bring plenty of pens, pencils, notebooks and highlighters. You might also depend on a recording device or app to capture what speakers say and make notes about the information later.
Select Your Attire
First impressions matter at conferences, as they do in most other settings. Keep that reality in mind when picking clothes for the work-related event.
Mixing and matching pieces simplifies dressing for a multi-day event, and the right accessories can make your outfits look especially on point. When packing shoes, realize that the layout of the facilities may require a substantial amount of walking. Don’t bring footwear that’s uncomfortable or hasn’t been broken in before the conference.
Survey the Schedule
Many conferences have dozens or even hundreds of offerings you could attend. If you don’t prioritize them in advance, you’ll waste time and feel stressed deciding which ones are most applicable.
Have a long-term viewpoint and determine which things on the schedule would help you reach career goals or meet the people who matter most. If your work conference has a complementing event app, it may have a feature that lets you create a schedule and gives alerts before selected events happen.
Figure out Your Route
No matter if you’re flying to the work conference, driving a car or using a different method of transportation, always assume you might encounter delays or other unexpected circumstances. Keep your stress levels as low as possible by deciding which routes to take in advance and giving yourself plenty of time to reach the conference facility.
If you reach the venue early because of extra time allotted, allow yourself to relax, order a cup of coffee and get into a good headspace before mingling with the other conference attendees.
Get Your Money’s Worth While There
Careful preparation falls short if it doesn’t extend to the time spent at the conference. Being mindful of some tips will help you capitalize on your experience.
Don’t Get Distracted by Your Smartphone
You might need your smartphone to stay on top of your schedule. Beyond that, limit your dependence on the gadget. Staring at a screen will make you seem unapproachable to people interested in networking.
Make Yourself Known
It’s unfortunately easy to disappear into a sea of individuals when attending a work conference. Resist letting that happen by being assertive about introducing yourself to speakers after their presentations, distributing your business cards and clearly describing your career aspirations to others. Don’t be shy about “selling yourself” when it matters most.
Set aside time about a week after the conference to follow up with those new connections too.
Pay Attention to the Social Events
A work conference’s social events let you socialize with others in settings that are more informal than the lectures, presentations and similar things to do. Some happen before or after the main conference events so that they don’t interfere.
In any case, remember that social gatherings could be even more valuable than formal face time for networking purposes. Don’t cut a meaningful conversation short just to arrive on time to the next thing on your schedule.
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Making Work Conferences Productive Is in Your Power
Expert speakers, educational workshops and fascinating product demos all make conferences maximally appealing to their target audiences, but those characteristics don’t guarantee you’ll have valuable experiences. They collectively give you chances to use your time and resources in sensible ways, but the tips above demonstrate why and how to participate in certain actions at each stage of planning to attend or going to a conference.
About the Author
Kayla Matthews is a productivity writer and self-improvement blogger. You can read more work from Kayla on MakeUseOf, VentureBeat, TinyBuddha and Inc.com.