Whether you’re entirely new to the association industry, attending a conference for the first time or are simply rusty after a few years of virtual events, conference season is here and it’s time to get ready.
As a first-timer myself (visit us at booth 1004 at ASAE’s Annual Meeting!), I was curious about how to prepare and make the most of attending an association conference.
So, I posed the question to our Sidecar Scoop readers and put together some essential tips for before, during and after your next conference.
The best way to maximize the value of a conference is to prepare. While you don’t need a daily play-by-play (although that works for some), you want to, at the very least, do some prep work before you travel, including:
If you’re on the introverted side like me, the idea of walking up to random groups of people can seem terrifying. While you can have a good idea of who you want to talk to, knowing what to talk to them about is key. A simple solution is to prep some questions ahead of time. Easy conversation starters like:
Also, you can always feel free to introduce yourself – just cover the basics like your name, organization, role and the types of associations or industries you work with, then ask them for the same.
Packing business cards is likely the norm before heading to any conference, but in changing times, you also want to make sure you’re prepared. A great and free tool you can use is Linkedin’s QR code.
All you have to do is open the app, go into the search section, click the small QR symbol in the corner and you'll have a personalized code that you can save to your photos, share or bring up any time you meet someone.
Whether you have a complete plan for your day or just go with the flow, the most important thing to remember is to be present. While there are plenty of important emails and notifications to keep track of, you also want a valuable and rewarding experience.
So, before you head out for the day, be sure to set your out-of-office reply, pack your notepads and pens for a day full of learning and keep these other tips in mind:
While you want to look your best, you also want to make it through the day. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes, pack some emergency essentials like band-aids, don’t skip out on meals and plan some downtime in your schedule! Conference days can be long, particularly if you’re attending parties or networking events after hours.
The conference may be over, but that doesn’t mean your preparation ends there! A lot of the value from attending a conference stems from the follow-up you do once you’re back home.
Whether your goal is to meet as many people as possible, gain insights to take back to your organization or simply get introduced to a new industry, conferences can be a valuable tool.
However, a little preparation goes a long way for those looking to get the most value out of it.
Whether that means identifying the sessions you want to attend ahead of time, making a QR code for your business card or outlining some of the things you hope to accomplish, the more organized you are, the more value you’ll get from the conference.
It’s also important to remember that time is limited, so don’t feel bad about missing out on certain sessions. Also, do your best to disconnect entirely from work so you can put your best foot forward with new connections and learn as much as possible.
Jose Triana joined the Sidecar team as the Content Manager in 2021. He is a writer and creative focused on helping purpose-driven organizations learn and find value online. When he isn't working on content, you can catch him going for a run or resting with a good book.
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