By Carolyn Shomali

In-person conferences are ripe with opportunity. Connecting with peers, staying abreast of industry trends and learning new skills are all valuable parts of association events.

But spending long days learning and connecting can leave us feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. That’s why it’s important to take a strategic approach to your next conference experience.

Below are 5 steps to consider taking before you pick up your name badge and attend your next association event.

1. Set Your Priorities. Attending a conference requires a great investment of time, money and resources. It makes sense to ask yourself two fundamental questions before attending any event – why are you going and what does a valuable conference experience look like to you?

Decide what your priorities are before you show up. Are you there to connect with industry colleagues, learn more about specific vendors and product offerings, or make the most of your educational experience? Taking time to consider your top work challenges will help you identify your conference priorities.

2. Select Your Sessions. The event staff sets the agenda and it lands in your inbox – will you examine it weeks before the event, or select your sessions once you arrive onsite? Having the event agenda months in advance is an important resource if you take the time to look at it. Identify the sessions, workshops and networking opportunities that align with your goals and set your calendar to make the most of your experience.

3. Pause Onsite. The term “information overload” takes on a new meaning during a conference setting. Our brain is full of new ideas that we are eager to apply to our own work. Consider scheduling a time to pause and decompress during the event. If you are traveling solo, compile some of your notes and then step away from the event setting to spend time on your own.

If you are traveling with a team, schedule time to meet with one another to discuss your experience and to talk about something other than the conference. This is also a time when you can reconsider your conference plan and refocus on how you or your team will spend the remainder of your time there.

4. Share and Act. You leave the conference full of new ideas that you are ready to take home to your organization. Scheduling time with your team to share your top takeaways helps you put your ideas into action. Ask for their input and perspective on what you’ve learned and how it may fit into your organization’s work. If there is a particular takeaway you are ready to explore further, contact the speaker, attendee or vendor for additional information and learning opportunities.

5. Grow Your Connections. In-person events help us establish new relationships that we can continue to grow virtually when we return home. Follow up with other attendees, vendors or speakers on LinkedIn and explore ways in which your work can align.


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