Unless you have managed to avoid all mail – electronic and postal – for the last few months, you know that conference season has arrived! It seems like every other day a conference notice or reminder appears in my inbox. Having participated in a multitude of conferences over time – both as a presenter and an attendee – I’ve picked up a few tips along the way to maximize the conference experience.

Miriam Kagan and Tiffany Crumpton have done an amazing job in their respective posts, highlighting the do’s and don’ts of conference attendance. Thankfully, there’s a few they’ve left off their lists!

Split Up

I cannot tell you how many times I have people walk into my sessions at BBCON that sit together and attend all the same sessions – from the same organization. That’s great! I love spending time with my colleagues, too. But, there are multiple sessions taking place at the same time on similar topics that are of great value. If you have multiple staff members attending, ensure that you have proper session coverage. You never know what you’re missing out on. If you’re the only staff member from your organization, find a conference buddy. Exchange notes from sessions so you can both learn from each other.

Don’t Rush Out the Door

The best questions I receive as a presenter are usually from those that come up to me after a session to have deeper dialogue about the topic I just presented. Even if you don’t have a question, come on up! You will likely learn something listening to the questions that others ask. And, it may spark a question of your own. A lot of attendees are afraid to ask questions in large groups, so don’t be afraid to ask your questions afterwards. You never know what you’ll learn.

Save a Tree

It’s always fun to discover great collateral available at conference booths. It’s even more fun to see conference attendees gathering it all up and attempting to juggle five pens, three notepads, a couple stress balls and 8,254 brochures. More often than not, the pens, notepads and stress balls always make it home, but the vast majority of the brochures always seem to wind up in the hotel room trash can. Odds are, the exhibitors have the same collateral in electronic format on their website. So, save a few trees, and download these resources when you get home to share with your peers that couldn’t attend so they can learn from them, too.

Report Back to the Boss

Many of our customers state that while they would really love to attend at least one conference a year, their boss “doesn’t see the value.” When asking for budget approval to attend, make sure that you have a solid basis for why the conference will be valuable and what you think you might learn– sessions you plan to attend, examples of previous presentations you can find online, etc. Then, after the fact, prepare a conference report. Show your boss why the conference was valuable. Be sure to include sessions attended, key takeaways, new connections made, and a solid plan to implement three to four items learned, along with how those items will benefit the organization. This year’s conference report is likely your ticket to budget approval for next year.

I hope to see you in a workshop, participating in a round table, or making the rounds in an exhibition hall at some point this year!

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