Make the most of your conference
If you are attending a conference this year, then you will know it is a big investment. Not only the cost of going, but the cost of your time. You might have given up a day at work or even taken annual leave to be there, so you want to get the most out of your investment.
Here are 7 ways to do just that:
1. Wear your badge
Wear your name badge. Women, wear a neckline that’s appropriate for chest-level glances.
Never pin your badge to your waistband – no one will be able to see it which makes it harder for them to start conversations with you.
If your badge is on a lanyard consider tying a knot in it to make it shorter so it doesn’t dangle round your middle. That’s a tip for short people like me!
2. Edit your badge
It’s OK to take your badge out of its plastic holder and write something on it. I have added my Twitter handle (@pm4girls) to many a conference badge. If the details on your badge are pretty meaningless, add something else, like your department.
Write big though, those badges are hard enough to read as it is.
3. A bit about business cards
You’ve packed your business cards, so use them. But don’t force them on people. My rule is that if someone asks for my contact details I will give them a card. I don’t offer them routinely to people I meet in the lunch queue because I know that if it was me I wouldn’t want to receive them.
Write some identifying features on the back of those you receive. You’ll probably be coming home with a bunch of them, and if you’re like me you won’t be able to remember who was who.
Jot down what you talked about and what the person looked like on the back of their card so you remember. Also write down anything you said you would do for them. This is really important if you want to build credibility with your new contact, if you said you’d send them a link to the article you talked about, then write down your promise on their card and follow up when you’re home.
4. Work through your hit list
Before the conference you should make a list of the exhibitors you want to see. Now is the time to go and visit their stands. First check that they have actually turned up. I normally do a sweeping tour of the exhibition hall to see who is there, then I can plan who to go back to. Use the floor plan in your conference programme to tick off the stands you have visited.
If you’ve arranged to meet anyone at the conference, tweet or text them to let them know that you’ve made it and to confirm details. I have sent someone a selfie before so that they knew who they were looking for – event rooms can be quite crowded so make it as easy as possible for someone to find you.
5. Bail out of presentations that aren’t interesting
You’ve chosen your sessions and you’re sitting in a presentation. The speaker begins and… you realise that this is nothing like you expected. It’s not pitched at the right level for you. You aren’t going to learn anything. Or the speaker is talking about something really interesting but in a delivery style that is going to have you asleep in the next 5 minutes.
Get up. Walk out. Speakers are used to it and won’t take offence. You’ve made the investment to come to a conference and you owe it to yourself to get the most out of your experience. That doesn’t include sitting through talks that aren’t your thing.
Find another speaker in another room and sneak in at the back!
6. Take notes
Finally, make sure that you take notes. Use whatever method works for you: drawing mindmaps on your iPad, writing longhand in a notebook or making a video diary. There is a lot to take in at events and you’ll reach the end of the day and not be able to remember the excellent points that the first speaker made.
The action of taking notes (in whatever format you use) helps you remember the conference content. Plus you will have them to look back on when you return to the office. You can’t implement what you can’t remember.
7. Record a video diary
Technology now makes it really simple to record a video diary to capture the conference atmosphere, record your personal highlights and elicit the opinions of others. Not everyone is willing to go stand in front of the camera but you can generally find enough people who have something interesting to say. Short and sweet is best. You can then upload it onto YouTube and embed it in an article, like this, for the benefit of others...
Bonus Tip: Have fun!
It’s a day out of your normal routine! Have some fun. Say hello to the people that you are sitting next to. Go up and ask a presenter a question after their speech.
Take selfies with the people you’d always longed to meet and never had the opportunity. Eat chocolate cake for lunch.
1. Book your place at #amprogmconf “Equipping Programme Managers for Global Success” which takes place in Hammersmith, London on 10 March 2016
2. Read related blog entitled “Change behaviour if you want to create value from events”
Article 1 in short series from Programme Management SIG, organisers of “Equipping programme managers for Global Success” great value conference which takes place on 10 March 2016, London.