Any time you get the opportunity to attend a conference, think of it as a chance to learn and bring some new ideas back to your team and company.

It’s important to be intentional as you prepare and to know what you want to achieve. Here are ten strategies that help me get the most out of the experience.

  1. Make a Takeaway Plan
    Determine what you want to accomplish at the conference. Is there a new technique, methodology, or approach you want to be sure to learn about? Formulate some critical questions before going.

  2. Study the Schedule
    Conference organizers typically publish a presentation schedule beforehand, including times, locations, speaker biographies, and summaries of the topics. Identify speakers and topics that align themselves with your takeaway plan.

  3. Position Yourself to Learn
    Sit as close to the front of the room as you’re comfortable with. This keeps distractions to a minimum and helps you focus on what’s being presented. It will also let you more easily engage the speaker with questions.

  4. Avoid Distracting Technology
    Many people use laptops, tablets, and phones to take notes. Unfortunately, these tools also make you available for email, social media, and notifications, which draw you away from why you came to the conference to begin with. Keep technology to a minimum so you can focus on the session you’re attending.

  5. Plan to Participate
    Look for as many opportunities as possible to participate during the event. Lunches, one-on-ones, meet-and-greets with speakers, and hands-on workshops are just a few of the possibilities you’ll find at most conferences.

  6. Connect with Leaders
    Go up and talk to thought leaders who are speaking at or attending the event. Many speakers spend time around the conference proceedings and are willing to answer questions, so look for opportunities to network.

  7. Have a Teachable Attitude
    You can always learn something, so keep an open mind for ways to sharpen your skills. Avoid pitting your knowledge against the knowledge of others. Find individuals with similar and different perspectives and engage in civil conversation that will expand your understanding.

  8. Be a Good Representative
    When attending a conference, you represent your company and its brand. Be respectful and professional when engaging with others, make it easy to share your contact information, and follow up with a thank-you email.

  9. Prepare to Share
    Be prepared to share what you’ve learned when you return. Identify two or three topics, highlight key points and takeaways that could be applicable to your company, and consider how you might implement them.

  10. Allocate Time
    Give yourself enough time to get to the conference and settle in. Consider arriving the evening before so you can meet others who’ll also be attending. Mark time on your work calendar for the day of your return to review notes and ideas, and schedule meetings with your team and leaders to discuss what you learned and how it can be applied.

I hope these strategies help you get the most from your conference experience. Consider using the worksheet below for planning.

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