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7 Tips to Get the Most from a Conference

From Clear Thinking Communications and Susan Parker
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Article: 7 Tips to Get the Most From a Conference   

We're in the midst of conference season. Conferences can be a great way to connect with people and come away energized by new ideas. Or they can be exhausting and leave you wondering what, exactly, you did for those two or three days.

Here are 7 tips to make the most out of any conference that you attend.

1. Look at the list of people who are coming and think about who you'd like to meet.  Conferences list the presenters and some also list the attendees. Pick three people, email them in advance and tell them you'd like to meet them at the conference. It's helpful to schedule a time--maybe suggest coffee or a drink. Even with smaller conferences, it can be hard to connect with people without making a plan.

2. Attend one session that you have no interest in whatsoever. Seriously. It's easy to get into a rut by going to the same old things. Our brains work better and we're more energized when we try new things, even if we're not sure we'll like them. You may gain new contacts and end up better informed.

3. Bring a new idea with you. Conferences are not only about what the speakers have to offer. Think about one new idea or book that you've recently read that could be valuable to the rest of the attendees. Find ways to talk about it during your informal chats or bring it up in the Q and A portion of a session. People will remember your idea AND you.

4. Think about your "sharing" style and decide to mix it up. If you tend to be a big talker at conferences, make it a point to zip it for a bit and listen to others. If you tend to hang back and not say much, push yourself to speak up more. Conferences present great opportunities to strengthen your speaking and listening skills.

5. Sit with people you don't know. It is tempting to hang out with your colleagues or friends from other organizations. But you won't get nearly as much out of a meeting if you only spend time with people you already know. And, you may inadvertently form a posse that is intimidating for newcomers to break into. Those newcomers could be great contacts.

6. Step away from your mobile phone. This is true both for the sessions and the breaks. During the sessions, it's just good manners to pay attention to the speakers. And the breaks are a prime time to meet new people and re-connect with friends.

If you spend a good chunk of your time at a conference checking voicemail and email, you'll miss out on valuable connections and information. Plus, you might give the impression that you're too busy or important to interact with other conference goers. That's not great for connecting with people who might be helpful colleagues.

7. Get the most out of your investment. We need to refresh our bodies and our brains after sitting for hours, especially in stale hotels and conference centers. Make a point to work out early in the morning or go outside for a quick walk during the day. You'll feel better, more alert and more able to make the most of your investment of time and money.

What are your tips for making the most of conferences? Let us know and we'll share them in a revised article. Email us at with your ideas.


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(c) 2009 Susan Parker, Clear Thinking Communications. All rights reserved. You are free to use material from the Clear Thinking ezine in whole or in part as long as you include complete attribution, including a live web site link. Please also notify me where the material will appear.
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