A user conference differs slightly from a regular one. Not only do you get to attend the typical best practice breakouts lead by industry experts, but you’ll also have access to sessions that dive deep into a system you use every day. And, even better, you meet and greet with the people who build it and other users with all kinds of backgrounds!
It’s almost like you can get two or three conferences' worth of value out of a user conference, if you use your time wisely. Here are our suggestions for taking the steps toward an amazing user conference experience:
1. Do a little research
You probably do this before most conferences, but it’s just as (if not more) important for a user conference because of all the different types of content available. Take some time to read through agenda session descriptions and speaker bios to get a sense of who you could be learning from. The people who put on the conference know that your time is precious and are conscious of making sure they bring in the best of the best! But, it’s up to you to decide what sessions are more valuable to you than others.
2. Plan your schedule ahead of time
Once you’ve done your research, create an itinerary for yourself! You may be able to do this through an app dedicated solely to the conference, or you may have to just write it down somewhere and bring the plan with you. Either way, having a plan means you’ll make the most of your time balancing between industry sessions, training sessions, support, etc., and that you won’t be caught in a panic not knowing where to go first after breakfast!
3. Prepare questions for staff
Whether you’re in a training session or one-on-one with a support member, a user conference gives you invaluable face-to-face time with the people who are building and continuously improving your system. What questions have you always wanted to ask? Write them down and bring them along! A user conference is time for you, the user, to get what you need from the vendor - so take advantage of it!
4. Come with the most recent updates
In training sessions, you’ll want to have your laptop out with your system up and running so you can follow along in your own database. Before you leave for the conference, make sure that both your laptop and your software are updated. It would be a pain to have to wait for an update to complete while you’re on-site - or worse, not be able to access a feature because it’s brand new!
5. Give yourself homework
At the conference, you’ll be learning so many actionable tactics (in both training and best practice sessions) that will bring more value to your organization and its members. As you’re taking notes, be sure to call out the things your team should consider implementing. (Personally, I highlight those items in a different color to make them stand out.) When you get back, gather those tactics and really put some thought into what they could do for your organization, how much effort it would take, who would own it, etc….and get started on a plan of action!
6. Be prepared to network - seriously!!
Yes, you’ll want to network at any conference, but it’s a special kind of networking at a user conference! For one thing, you’ll be under the same roof as the people who build and maintain your system for a few days. You can ask those questions we talked about, get to know the people behind the phone calls and keyboard, and maybe even get a sneak peak of what’s to come!
What’s more is, you’ll be hanging out with tons of OTHER users! Users from organizations similar to yours, and very different. Take this as an opportunity to learn how these other organizations use their system. You never know what you could learn! And be sure to grab some contact info so you can reach out to them in the future for more ideas.
By following these steps, you’re sure to have a successful user conference experience! Try them out at MemberClicks’ user conference, MC LIVE!, coming up this October 10-12 in Indianapolis! It’s a fantastic opportunity to connect with fellow users and Clickers (MemberClicks employees), get hands-on training and one-on-one support, learn from the industry’s best and brightest, and celebrate what it means to be a member-based organization!