Getting the Most Out of Your Conference

Attending an event, virtual or IRL, for your professional development? Here’s how to get the most out of your experience.

By: Kat Ricketts and Erica Newell

Industry events are a great opportunity to bolster your professional experience, develop new skills, stay in the know on important trends, and network. Although every conference/seminar/webinar/panel/summit/what-have-you is different, here are our best tips for making the most of your experience (beyond taking in the views and trying the local brews).

👩‍💻Do your research. It sounds obvious, but make sure you are researching the speaker(s) and other attendees in advance. Make a mental note of people you want to connect with (yes, do the classic LinkedIn creeping) and prioritize what you truly want to get out of the conference. You’ll also want to double-check the conference agenda, dress code, location, etc. to ensure your first day goes smoothly (i.e. don’t show up in your fave Harry Styles concert tee if that’s not the vibe)! Bonus tip: make sure you have your elevator pitch down or at least one fun fact prepared because, as we all know, icebreakers are a must-have!

🎁 Be present. It may be tempting to check your phone or respond to emails, especially when a session takes place during the workday, but you’ll absorb the material so much better if you are fully unplugged and tuned in. Trust us: you’re not missing much on Twitter right now anyway. 😰

📝 Take notes. No matter what type of conference you are attending, it’s very likely that you will be provided with tons of information. To help you retain everything you’re being taught, take notes in real time so you capture all of the key points. This will also help you stay engaged. (Pro tip: Try taking notes directly in a deck. Spoiler alert for the last bullet—this could actually help you kill two birds with one stone! 😉)

👥 Venture out. Depending on the structure of the event, you will probably share a space with other professionals. Take advantage of this opportunity and get to know those around you. If you’re attending the conference with another team member, consider stepping out of your comfort zone by sitting with people you don’t know. You’ll never know who you’ll meet, and if it will lead to you getting to touch the Stanley Cup at the conference hotel – yes, this actually happened to us! Share contact information, connect with new friends on LinkedIn and don’t be afraid to slide into their DMs to keep in touch. 

📣 Speak up. Don’t be shy in sharing your insights because they are valuable. If you have an opportunity during a group discussion or a Q&A to lend your thoughts,👏 just 👏 do 👏 it!

🗣️ Report back. Your organization has sent you to this event because they believe in the value of the experience not only for you, but for your whole team. Find time within a month of attending the conference to share your insights and key takeaways with your leadership and peers. Consider any opportunities to create additional content from your insights such as a blog post or LinkedIn article.

Put these tips into practice to make sure you have a great experience with every event!