In the past few years I have attended my fair share of conferences and events in the digital and internal comms arena. Whether an event has been paid for by me, my employer or is complimentary I think it is important to make the most of the opportunity and I thought I would share my thoughts on getting the most out of a conference.
Do your homework: Make sure you know where you are going, how to get there and who the speakers are. This will save you time and stress on the day. Review the presentations and if there are streams, pick which ones you will go to. If you are going with friends or colleagues spread out your coverage to get a cross spread between you.
Prepare your notes: Whether you use a tablet, laptop, your phone or a good old-fashioned notebook I find it pays to plan ahead. I use my iPad and like to set-up my notes pages in Evernote (via AwesomeNote) prior to the event with session titles, speaker names and handles. I have also been doing a bit of sketchnoting at conferences recently and will always prepare my notebook to save time and stress on the day. It gives me maximum time on the day to find a good spot and chat with other delegates. I am not massive on asking questions in conferences, something I need to work on, but I do try and think of them before hand if I can so I am prepared when the question opportunity comes up.
Don’t be late: Not only is it rude to the first (and usually keynote) speaker but you miss a great opportunity to network. If you are late be discrete about your entrance and sit at the back for minimum disturbance. Same goes for your exit.
Turn off/down the mobile: Nothing more annoying for speakers or embarrassing to you.
Tweet it up: If you use Twitter look up all the conference speakers and follow them before hand. The more digital savvy conferences will provide speaker twitter handles for you. By following the speakers when you want to tweet at the event you should have no trouble finding and crediting the speakers while you tweet. Find out the conference hashtag and use it when you tweet. I like to use the speakers handle when I post by way of acknowledgement.
Network: As an unashamed introvert I can often be found in the furthest corner of a conference room with my face buried in my iPad happily tweeting the other introverts in the room. Knowing this about myself I do try to make an effort to chat to other delegates for at least some of the day. It is not often you get the chance to have a room full of so many other like minded individuals. I met some of my favourite new people at events and had I kept to myself would have missed out of some cool new connections. Have a look at the conference website for networking information. There are often side events for networking and online communities through Twitter, Lanyrd, LinkedIn and other tools that will help you connect with other conference attendees and the speakers.
Complete the feedback form: This is your best chance to tell the conference organisers how good (or not good) their event was. As a speaker the feedback from attendees is important to help me improve for the next opportunity.
I am keen to hear your thoughts of making the most out of conferences, comment below or get in contact with me.