Whether it is your first conference or your twenty first, there is a level of excitement and anticipation of the big event. Who will I meet? What new gems will help build my skill sets?
Learning from the process along the way builds strong, deep character. The people we meet and how we present ourselves and our work is game changing. So it’s good to have a plan for each conference. The plan doesn’t need to be anything formal. Just some forethought.
It might take a few readings of materials to understand the flow of the conference day/s. If the selection of workshops or sessions is intricate, print the options in order to read through everything thoroughly and highlight or underline interests and choices. It helps to have a first choice and a back up choice. Learn the rules to know if it is acceptable to move between sessions during session time.
Plan your information management ahead of time. Decide how you’re taking notes. Whether it is recording notes in a notebook, laptop, tablet or phone. Often handouts are given and it can be helpful to take notes on the handouts or take a picture of the handout with a smart phone for use later.
If there are people you know you would like to meet, make a list of them. If you are going to their sessions, you’ll know who to look for later. If you’re not, you might need the assistance of a conference volunteer to point them out to you.
Have an exit strategy. There will be many people to talk to and it is important to maximize time. Whether it is “Excuse me I need to find the rest room” or “Excuse me I need to locate a person I’ve been wanting to introduce myself to,” all of these help the day run a little smoother and help accomplish goals.
Wear comfortable, but professional clothing and shoes. Dress in layers. Conferences often have issues with heat and cooling so it helps to have options.
Your conference experience is what you make of it. Approach conferences with an open mind and a willingness to learn and you never know what possibilities will open up.