How to Make the Most Out of Conference Attendance

October 14, 2015

conference attendance

Social Brand Forum 2015 is happening TOMORROW and whether you’re able to join us or not, we thought it’d be a good time to offer tips for getting the most out of attending a conference. 

Experience is what you make of it and conference attendance is an investment of time and money. Here are some things to consider get the most out of your investment – before, during and after the event.

Do Your Prep

You’ve registered for the conference, so you’ve likely done a little digging into the event and its speakers, but now it’s time to do some pre-conference legwork that will enhance your experience at the event.

  • Follow the speakers – If you don’t already, take the time to follow the conference speakers online – their blog, Twitter, etc. – to get to know the things they’re working on, thinking about, and sharing. You might even find opportunity to engage prior to the event, giving way to a warm, in-person introduction.
  • Connect with fellow attendees – You may be blessed with the extroverted art of networking but if you’re anything like me, a cold room turns me into a wallflower or worse, makes me want to skip the networking part altogether and head back to my room. However, if I’ve been able to make some connections ahead of time, the room becomes warm and inviting and I already have some conversation starters. You can identify other attendees by simply asking your network if any will be there, following the conference hashtag, or, in some instances, finding an attendee list on the conference website.
  • Review the agenda – How will you know if you get what you want out of the conference unless you decide what it is that you want? Take time to review the conference agenda and presentation descriptions and get a clear sense of what you’d like to learn from each and how it could apply to the work you do. This exercise will help frame your questions during Q&A time and give you fodder conversations during conference networking events.

Put Your Best (Digital) Face Forward

Showing up at a conference can start in advance of the event itself. Consider some ways to make a good digital first impression.

  • Dust off your social profiles — This is an ideal time to make sure that your social profiles are up-to-date and to ensure that they shine a light on who you are, personally and professionally. (Check your avatar picture, too — will people recognize you when they see you in person?)
  • Post your best work — During the conference, you’ll be meeting and connecting with new people, and your profile page and recent posts are bound to get some eyeballs that will be looking to make a first impression. Consider posting a recent blog post (better yet, write a post specifically about your attendance at this event) or share some industry insights or articles relevant to this audience.
  • Participate in pre-conference conversation — The conference hashtag isn’t just for conversations during the event! In addition to being a great way to identify other attendees, the conference hashtag is a great place to engage in pre-conference conversation on session topics and do some pre-conference networking.

Be An Active Participant 

Once the day of the event finally comes, be a conscious and active participant online and off.

  • Now that you’re finally at the event…participate! Remember all the prep work you did and use that information to connect with speakers and ask thoughtful questions during sessions.
  • Use the back channel — This post has already mentioned opportunities via the conference hashtag, which will likely quite abuzz now that the conference has begun. Consider ways to use this purposefully such as adding your personal take to discussion items or responding to comments or questions others have posed.
  • Don’t forget about the face-to-face — You’re at a live event for a reason, and much of the benefit is in the conversation and connections you’ll make. Take advantage of networking opportunities during the event to connect in person with those you’ve met online. If you need an ice-breaker, try this conversation starter for shy people from Chris Brogan.

Keep the Momentum

You’ve put in a lot of work so far … now it’s time to keep the momentum going after the conference.

  • Make connections and follow-up — Whether you’ve returned with a batch of good old-fashioned business cards or you swapped info/connected digitally, make sure to keep a in touch with your new connections.
  • Continue the discussion — Any good conference will leave you with additional thoughts or questions. A blog post can be a great way to continue conversation around these topics. Share it with the conference hashtag so the conference audience can chime it.
  • Share with your colleagues — How can you make your conference learnings relevant at work? Take some time to share a recap with your colleagues, through the lens of your current work projects and challenges. Sharing insights can also help to ensure you’re given a green light the next time you want to attend a conference.

There you have it. Those are our best strategies. What are your favorite tips for maximizing a conference experience?

Image via Canva
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is a strategist, speaker, educator, and author of Brand Now: How to Stand Out in a Crowded, Distracted World and Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, an educator at the University of Iowa, and host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.