Your Clear Next Step has been busy with conferences lately! Many of us are enjoying the opportunity to connect again face-to-face, and the energy building and professional growth that comes from connecting and collaborating with others in our professional discipline. So, this post is designed to help you make conferences even better for yourself, for those around you, and for those faithful volunteers who are continuing to do their best to put these events on!
1. Attend a Conference!
Whether virtually or in person, carve off the time and just do it! These things are so good for us. Meet new people, see familiar faces! Listen to speakers you haven’t heard before. Listen to speakers you have heard before, and keep hearing from year after year! Conferences are great ways to follow thought leaders in your discipline. They’re a great way to grow in your own knowledge area. They are wonderful ways to show your organization and future employers that you’re serious about investing in your own professional growth. Need a business case tool to help you justify why your employer should spend money on your professional development? Check out our handy dandy business case tool for professional developments, available for a free download on our website.
2. Bring a Friend!
The value of bringing someone with you to a professional development event, like a conference, is more than just for your social comfort. Although it's certainly nice to have a buddy, bringing a friend does a couple of things. First, it helps the organizers by having two registrations instead of just one. Second, it gives you someone to bounce ideas off of and connect with after the conference, about what you learned and what you choose to apply. Third, it gets voices out in your organization or in your network, applying the concepts and learnings, and sharing the messages of the speakers. Fourth, if the two of you divide and conquer, you can cover twice as many sessions during the day!
3. Engage on Social Media!
You may not know this, but the conference organizers spend countless hours planning the event, and some portion of their time is spent imagining how to engage their attendees and potential attendees. This is done through social media! If as a conference attendee you engage with their social media campaigns, you’d be doing them a big favor by spreading the word, and you’d be showing them that their hard work has not gone to waste!
4. Read your Emails!
When the conference planners put together communications for you, they do so in a way that’s designed to minimize your time and maximize your return on investment. Chances are great that they’ve already included answers to many of your questions - they’ve got things like parking maps, suggestions for what to wear and what to bring with you, and how to plan ahead for the day. Take a moment to read the messages that they’re sending you, as they’ve been crafted with you in mind!
5. Take Advantage of Everything They Offer!
If the conference offers pre-workshop events, take advantage of those and attend! If the workshop offers networking sessions or speed networking sessions, then give those a whirl! If there are places to network, opportunities to meet with folks, chat sessions with speakers, opportunities to learn or to draw every possible benefit out of the event, then soak it all in! I mean really, what’s the point of doing something if you’re only gonna do it half hearted!
6. Thank a Volunteer!
When you get to the conference - or maybe if you’re so moved by the email or social media ahead of time or after the fact - take a moment and say thank you! Those volunteers put their time and effort, likely outside of their day job, to put together a conference that would be meaningful and beneficial for you. Did you like a particular speaker? Tell the organizers! Did you appreciate something about the venue or the advanced communications or lunch? Thank the organizers! Did you find the check-in process super efficient and the wayfinding helpers exceptionally helpful? Thank the volunteers! The idea is that taking just a quick second to say thanks, will put a spring in their step and help them continue to want to be helpful next year.
7. Provide Feedback!
If you’ve got something to share about the venue, the format, something you saw at a different conference that might work well for this group, an idea for next year… If you’ve got feedback, share feedback! This is especially valuable if it's in the spirit of making things even better, and if it's wrapped effectively like the gift that feedback is.
8. Be a Volunteer!
Now you may say, "Whoa, Sinikka don’t go that far!" And I say, "Why not?" If you’ve benefited from the hard work of other volunteers over the years, maybe it’s your turn to give back! If you’ve got feedback that would make next year even better, why don’t you roll up your sleeves and help execute it! If you’re looking to grow in your discipline, what better way to do it then surrounding yourself with others who are passionate about that same discipline? If you’re looking for opportunities to network in your discipline and demonstrate that you’re committed, there’s just about no better way than to volunteer alongside others in that same space! Don’t believe me? Give it a try! It’s absolutely worth it!
Bonus: Pack the Essentials!
Conferences can wind up being a long day. There are a few things you can be prepared with to help you get the most of it. You can read more in this blog!
What have you enjoyed about conferences? Do you have other tips as an attendee, organizer, or speaker? We'd love to hear from you!