It’s starting to be that time of the year: Conference season! With more and more available conference options on the market, it can be tricky to know where to spend your continuing education budget to get the most bang for your buck. And then when you do finally decide, you have all this pressure to make the most of your conference experience!
It pretty much comes down to this: “If I’m going to take time away from the office, this conference better be worth it!” We totally get it. That’s why we’ve outlined the best ways to get the most out of your conference experience. Check them out below!
1. Selecting the Right Sessions
Depending on the conference you choose, you should ideally have a couple of varying session lengths as well as several learning tracks you can choose from. This range of options should encourage you to stop and think “What do I want out of these sessions?” and “How do I best learn?”
When it comes to session length, you should reflect on talks or workshops in the past that have best impacted your professional life. For some, it’s important to watch and participate in something short and sweet (ten minutes to an hour) to keep their attention engaged and provide some quick fixes. Others, however, may want a deep dive (typically more than one hour) to feel like they grasp the material and can execute it in full detail.
As for learning tracks, you should be thoughtful about what you actually need to learn from this conference. Translation: This means you need to take a seriously look into your (and your association’s) pain points. These can range across the board, from member engagement, to marketing, to internal operations. The more honest you can be about where you lack, the better choice you can make for your sessions!
2. Putting Your Gadgets in Time Out
Let’s imagine a world where each conference is like a “Treat Your Professional Self” day. Now, when this scenario first comes to mind, are you picturing your smart phone in one hand and your laptop in the other? Chances are good, right? In order to actively engage as an attendee at your conference, you might want think about putting away your non-essential technical items.
Now before we lose you, we aren’t saying to not use your laptop or phone at all, because let’s face it, that’s not realistic. However, you might realize a world of opportunity by not being glued to your screen and getting out of your comfort zone. Some examples include:
- Networking with the conference attendee next to you
- Squeezing in that one extra educational session
- Attending the newcomers meeting or likewise groups
Just think about if you disconnected 10% less from your gadgets at how much more you could accomplish at any conference! You’ll never know until you try, so what’s the harm?
3. Volunteering (a little!) at the Conference
What better way to get the best connections and information from your conference than to be involved in the conference itself! While we aren’t saying to be a full time volunteer, there is something to be said about helping out where you can. Consider your strengths and think “What is something I could do pre, during, or post for this conference to help?”
Some ideas include:
- Presenting a session (We know: It’s a scary idea! But you’ll never know until you try it.)
- Volunteering on the Pre-Conference Committee
- Assisting with conference logistics (Signs, Food and Beverage, Sponsorships)
- Taking photography during the conference
- Assisting with post-marketing on social media channels
Whichever way you go, this level of participation will allow for you to gain a much larger (and better) connection to the industry’s network as well as be regarded as more than a “typical” attendee, boosting both you and your association’s status! Sounds like a win-win to us.
Still feeling a little underprepared for the upcoming conference season? Don’t panic! No matter how big the conference you're attending is, we've got a guide to help you get through it in one piece. Check out our Conference Survival Guide to learn more quick tips today!