Have you ever been to a conference where some of the sessions were great wins, some okay impasses, while others felt like you just can’t beat the house? Odds are always against you when you go blind! Don’t go blind!
Here’s my two cents how to make the most out of a conference:
Make a wish list! List all things you want to learn about, experience or discuss. Then put all those into three categories:
A) things I need today to do my job better
B) things I need within weeks to grow
C) things I need in six months to a year to get inspired about the future
Goals!!! You’ll have too many options to choose from with very limited time. Make sure you hit some sessions from each category. More importantly, set your goals for each session:
A) must be hands-on, applicable on day 1
B) must be challenging just enough to pique your interest and motivating enough to make you learn more when return to work
C) must be inspiring with a vision you take home (not necessary a checklist to work with)
Check out the session descriptions! Download the app!! Before you choose your sessions, check out the presenters! Connect with them on Twitter, LinkedIn, SnapChat, whatever works for you. Find their blogs! Check YouTube! Are you gelling? Are you buying what they’re selling? Most people I know are completely approachable. Go and ask questions about the session. Do your homework. Believe me, I’ve been to sessions when the topic description sounded great. Only on paper.
Create a backup plan. You may have to choose Plan B. Make sure you have a runner-up for each session.
Connect with fellow attendants and speakers online! Find people with the same interest. Participate in chat like #lrnchat on Thursdays at 8:30 EST or #guildchat on Fridays at 2pm EST. First timers are always welcome! This was one on my bucket list for last year. Thanks, Jane Bozarth (@JaneBozarth) for encouraging!
During the conference, talk to people! It’s not a blind date. It’s called networking. You might learn more from reflections on sessions from attendees more than the session itself. Be social. We’re all geeks. With name tags. And it REALLY doesn’t matter if you’re an attendee or a speaker. However, it does help a lot IRL (in real life) if you’ve met them online before.
Bring home an action plan! Remember #1 above? A) you must find something to implement right away. B) figure out to implement change within two weeks. C) have a vision you start digging into within 45 days.
Wear comfortable shoes and ALWAYS have a reliable map of food and coffee sources.
Follow the right people! Work out loud! Share and connect BEFORE!