A conference is generally defined as a gathering of interesting people to discuss a specific topic. At conference sessions, fresh ideas are exchanged among professionals, and new information is presented. One or more keynote speakers usually deliver the key takeaways at most conferences. The speakers chosen are well-known figures in their fields, and their participation is intended to entice more people to attend the conference.
Attending conferences and in-person session comes with so many benefits and is one of the most important things you can do in your career. By doing so, you will learn about industry trends, gain new skills, and at the same time make new connections.
However, all those speaking engagements, sessions and great networking can be overwhelming. Besides the necessary preparation, what else should you plan when you have an event coming up?
From preparing to having a great time while in the event, here are 15 useful tips for making the most of conferences.
How do I get the most out of an online conference?
Before the event
Figure out your purpose
The way you approach the social events, or the breakout sessions you’ll choose is what you need to know before hitting the conference center. In this way, you can set your purpose and goals for attending the conference.
Block your calendar
Recently everyone was forced to adjust to a work-from-home setup due to the unforeseen crisis. The events need to adapt and do the same. However, just because your living room is now your new office, it doesn’t mean that you are one tap away from joining the conference hotel (venue).
Make sure that you block off your calendar to avoid unnecessary distractions and being late. Often, event organizers send an email with a digital calendar reminder for their event. This way, you could directly save it into your digital calendar and be reminded a few days and hours before the conference starts.
Familiarize yourself with the platform
Different event organizers use many platforms. You do not want to be confused about how the conference space (platform) works on the day of the event. You will want to know how the website is set up, how to navigate the online platform to get to the session you have chosen and how to talk with other participants potentially.
Download the conference app
If the conference organizers used an online application, it is best to download the conference app beforehand to know and experience the application. Even if the app has a web version, it is highly recommended to download it on your device, primarily if you use your phone or tablet to attend the conference. The reason is that many of the apps have great stuff that only works on mobile, and you will want to be able to utilize the tool entirely.
One of the great ways to maximize your conference experience is participating in the conference, such as being a presenter, session facilitator, content marketer, or volunteer. The reason is that while you are at the social event, you will be participating among hundreds or thousands of other participants. Still, if you can take on a visible role, that’s an easy way to gain visibility apart from the crowd.
Study the speakers
How would you know a good sign if you will join a particular session or not? One solution is to watch videos of the conference speakers before the event. First, it helps you know whether you want to listen to that speaker. The titles of talks provide some valuable information, but sometimes a speaker takes a different approach than you expected, and you lose interest. This can be avoided by watching videos ahead of time.
Second, it gives you context. It can be challenging to stay the entire day to come up with good questions if you’re being introduced to new insights for the first time during a session. You’ll get more out of your next session if you watch old speeches ahead of time and let ideas grow.
Connect with fellow attendees
The event’s unique hashtags are scattered throughout social media platforms. You can use the conference hashtag to communicate with other conference attendees or guest speakers at the event. If you do this correctly, you will profit from networking opportunities before the event.
Create an elevator pitch
You will not attend an ordinary gathering, and you will surely meet many folks in the conferences or networking events. With that being said, you shall come prepared with a brief introduction of yourself. Prepare a one-minute introduction or elevator speech about yourself and your organization if you want to feel more at ease when people ask, “What do you do for a living?”
Invite your colleagues
This is an excellent trick, particularly for the smaller conference. If you know someone you’ve been meaning to reconnect with, invite them to accompany you or meet you there. If the event isn’t up to your standards, you and your colleagues or new friends can create a small group call or LinkedIn group to talk about good advice. You still get to catch up and see someone you intended to see in the first place. There’s no way you’re going to lose!
During the event
Go to noise and distraction-free place
You don’t want to be distracted by phone notifications, unwanted phone calls, or someone who will interrupt you throughout the virtual conference. To avoid notifications on your gadget, you may put it on airplane mode. However, if you believe it is a bad idea for you to do so, you can simply turn it off.
Meanwhile, if you are in a house with other people around you, it is better to tell them ahead of time that you have a conference to attend. In that way, they would know that you are busy and lessen their disturbance to you.
On the other hand, you also would like to choose a room that is somehow noise-proof, with a plain or neat background to be prepared just in case other attendees prefer to have meaningful conversations in front of the camera.
Choose the best session
There will be a variety of sessions to pick from at online conferences. So, when planning your schedule, consider the conference as a whole. Examine all of the sessions and activities you’re interested in, then make sure you’re attending a wide range of topics, skill-building sessions, and social gatherings while also allowing for some rest. If you end up in a session that isn’t exactly what you expected, don’t be afraid to leave and try something else. The purpose of any conference is to make the most of your time and use all available tools.
Introduce yourself with confidence and professionalism.
Here’s where you’ll provide your elevator pitch. When you want to make a new connection at an in-person event, you make eye contact, smile, introduce yourself, shake hands and spill out conversation starters.
But at online events, you can send them a personal message if the event platform or application allows you to do. If that is not the case, things might be a little bit tricky.
First, you can manually look for that person’s social media or online profile or just ask for the conference organizer’s help to identify them. It might take some route, but If you are willing to connect to that person, you will indeed find your way to achieve it.
You can take great notes in your notebook during the virtual conference if you typically do so. I do not recommend utilizing a digital notebook since it may cause you to become distracted and obstruct your ability to hear what the speaker is saying.
After the event
Review your notes
After the event, you can go over your conference notes to make sure you remember everything you learned. You may easily share new information with your colleagues by examining your notes. A benefit of virtual events is that you will always have access to a recording after the event, allowing you to re-watch your favorite speakers if you believe you may have missed catching a vital point.
At the business conference, you are exchanging business cards or contact details with your fellow attendees. But you should not just stop there. At least a week after the event, you send a personal message to them for a follow-up to let them know that you enjoyed meeting them.
You can send them an email or message them through their social media accounts. You can also set up a phone call or virtual meeting to potentially want to do or offer a business with. However, you can also catch up with speakers from the event. You can ask them for great advice or tips and possibly work with them.
How can I be successful in a conference?
Joining conferences is not just about learning for the sake of your gain. One of the primary goals of conferences is making connections. So, whether you interacted in a conference app or spent a few minutes chatting in person, you should learn how to get the most out of it.
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