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There is no getting around it: stepping into a conference room full of your industry peers is overwhelming. There are people to meet with, vendors’ booths to visit and lectures to attend, all in a few short days. But undeniably, these opportunities are one of the most valuable annual resources for professional development and networking. Proper preparation and a game plan are key. All conferences are broken down into three parts: before, during and after. Here is a way to successfully navigate each part of the experience.

Before the Conference:

  • Let your Regional Manager know that you’ll be attending – we’d love to see you. We periodically host receptions and wouldn’t want you to miss out on any valuable opportunities with your peers.
  • For those who have attended many conferences, you probably have some friends, clients or vendors that you only see at this type of industry event. Reach out to these acquaintances a few weeks before the event and suggest meeting up while there. This will help you build stronger relationships.
  • While at the event you will have countless sessions to choose from. Fortunately, most conferences post their agenda and course summaries beforehand and if nothing is posted on their website, don’t hesitate to email the posted conference contact; they are there to help and make your experience valuable. After obtaining schedule information, forecast your days at the conference, including any social events offered. By the time you get there you’ll be able to be present and absorb all the information instead of fussing with what’s going on.

During the Conference:

  • During the event is where it gets complicated. You will be attending many sessions, listening to a myriad of speakers and meeting more people than you can count. While taking detailed notes during each session is ideal, it is not always possible. If you can’t take notes during the talk it also works well to take some time after each session to write down some key takeaways and any follow-up you need to do on the topic or with the speaker. This information will help jog your memory when you are back at the office.
  • Always attend the social events planned by the conference. These events give you an opportunity to meet and mingle with industry insiders in a more relaxed setting. Oftentimes you will find out more information at these outings than in a planned session.

After the Conference:

  • After the event is where the real work begins. You met a lot of people at the conference; now is the time to reach out to all of them. This can be done through social media or a friendly email. If you met a vendor or person you would like to do business with it is especially important to reach out. This helps build a relationship that may prove beneficial down the road.
  • If there was an amazing presentation more suited for other members of your staff, instead of just providing them with high level information don’t be intimidated to reach out to the actual presenter. Many times they will have takeaway resources or even their presentation posted online.

Whatever you decide to do or not do, don’t attend conferences blindly. You spent the money and time to be there so show up to the conference as if you’re attending a meeting you have been preparing weeks for. It takes additional effort to successfully execute each part of the conference attending process, but in the end your effort will provide more opportunities for yourself and your practice.

Need help planning? Contact your regional manager or account manager today.