With our Annual Meeting coming up in just a few short weeks, I wanted to dedicate this week’s "Ask Friday" to the question of "how can I make the most out of attending a conference?" You might think that just showing up and attending the events is enough, but with a little bit of strategy, your pre, during and post conference activities can really make a difference in your experience.
Before heading to the conference, take a few minutes to look over the agenda and the attendee list (if it’s available). The agenda can give you an idea of what topics will be discussed and where you can contribute – when you contribute to a discussion (especially in a conference like ours where the main purpose is to develop relationships), it can help people to identify you with a certain area of expertise, and make you a thought leader who is sought out for later conversations. It also makes you easier to remember.
Review the attendee list and identify who you’d like to build relationships with. This can seem a bit "icky," but you know where your clients are doing business, so it’s a good idea to connect with possible referral partners so that you start to build that level of trust necessary for referring work. You may even see someone on the list that seems to have a cool job, or a unique value proposition – meet these people just to expand your horizons if nothing else. When we stretch our comfort zones, that’s when we really learn and grow.