Attending a conference with other participants from around the world opens up a world of opportunities for growth, learning, and fellowship. Why not take a little time to plan ahead so that you can maximize the results from attending.
Set Goals Before You Go
Before you leave for the conference, write down some goals that you want to accomplish during the conference. These could include items about specific skills you want to hone, questions you want to have answered, people you want to contact, areas for which you want to have referral contacts, etc. Set three to five goals for each day of the conference (some goals may stay in place each day) and then hold yourself accountable for them at the end of the day.
- Take Some Supplies
It's no fun being a thousand miles from the office and not having what you need. So be sure to think about what supplies would make your life easier at the conference. You'll want to take business cards, brochures, fliers on any books you've written, note pads, post-its, pens, pencils, highlighters, a permanent marker, and five manila folders (labeled Call, Write, Read, File, Receipts). You may also want to consider taking a stapler, some staples, paper clips, rubber bands, a calculator, and a small tape recorder for taking verbal notes. You won't need huge quantities of these items, so they will be able to fit into your suitcase or briefcase quite easily.
- Dress Efficiently
Hotels and conference centers are notorious for having great variations in temperature from room to room. So dress in layers that can be removed or added depending on the temperature. Wear clothes and shoes (low heels for women) that are comfortable. You will probably be spending more time on your feet and doing more walking than you usually do at home. Also be sure to wear clothes that have pockets. Designate which pocket will be used to hold your own business cards and which one will be used to receive cards from others — you don't want to hand a prospect someone else's business card.
- Be Attractive
Everyone goes to a conference to learn and have fun, but no one enjoys being around people who are boorish, self-centered, or needy. Before you go to the conference review the ways in which you can make yourself irresistibly attractive so that others will be attracted to you and the information you need will be drawn to you effortlessly.
- Take Care of Your Body
While the excitement of a conference can get the adrenaline flowing, be sure to monitor how your body is doing. Take frequent breaks if you need them. Sometimes a short nap in the afternoon can make it possible to enjoy late-night fellowship without being worn out the next day. Drink plenty of fluids, but remember that coffee and other caffeinated beverages often cause "dry mouth." Try to stay as close to your normal eating and drinking pattern as possible even though it may be tempting to over indulge the alcohol, sweets, and rich foods. It's no fun being sick at a conference. Also remember that many hotels have exercise rooms and spas with whirlpools and saunas.
- Maintain Balance
With the excitement and overstimulation that usually occurs at conferences, it will be important for you to take measures to maintain your balance. Try to continue any routines that you normally practice at home. Arrange for a wake-up call or set an alarm to get up and take a morning walk/run. Bring your book of daily readings and your journal to the conference. Do a bit of yoga or other exercise in your hotel room. Carry a small object in your pocket such as a favorite stone, an acorn, a special coin or medallion, anything which you can touch from time to time during the conference and bring yourself back to your emotional/spiritual center.
- Network, Network, Network
A conference is a priceless opportunity to make yourself known and to get to know others. You've already set some goals that will get you started. Now be alert to other opportunities. Never underestimate the value of connecting with the "lesser known" participants — it wasn't too many years ago that the keynote speaker was a "lesser known". Remember to listen to what others have to say, but you also have to offer something to the conversation if you want others to remember you. Don't make any commitments that you cannot keep, even though it is easy to get caught up in the high energy of the conference. We all know that what goes around comes around. So work hard at being helpful to others. Perhaps you can offer a kind word or a lead that might be useful.
- Learn From Every Experience
You will learn much from attending a conference. There will be wonderful speakers with much to share. You will learn a great deal as you network with colleagues. And there will be some mistakes you make that will also teach you important lessons. Learn from every single experience that you have. Write down the lessons and new information so that you can use what you've learned in the future.
- Lighten Your Load
Conferences are great places to pick up "stuff." You'll collect business cards, brochures, handouts, and perhaps even books and tapes. Before you know it you will have more things to pack than your suitcase will hold. Plan ahead and lighten your load throughout the conference. Take some mailing labels addressed to yourself at home. Also take a few free priority mail envelopes from the post office as well as some postage stamps. The priority mail envelopes can be filled with as much as you can get into them and mailed for the flat two pound postal rate. It's much easier to mail a few pounds of material to yourself than it is to haul it back on the plane.
- Maintain Integrity Back at the Office
When you return to the office after the conference, be sure to promptly do whatever you have said you would do. Those manila folders that you labeled Call and Write will help you remember what you promised. And don't forget to send appropriate thank-you notes.
_____About the Author_____
David Bentley, M.Ed. & Personal Coach, coaches clients through the game of life — helping them find balance, clarity of direction, and purpose in an ever-changing world. Email David at firstname.lastname@example.org (360)378-8436 or visit his website.