After 'popping' my conference cherry at the RCSA International conference in Fiji in 2017, I quickly learnt that attending a conference is not all about listening to trailblazers as guest speakers on hot industry topics but more about networking and the connections you make. So as I prepare for the RSCA's 2018 conference in Noosa, I find myself pondering on how to get the most out of a conference, so here are my tips.
- Be prepared – turn your out-of-office message on, review the agenda, check out the location, know who is attending, download the app (if available) and I’m stating the obvious, take the ‘old school’ business cards. Also, don’t forget to take chargers and cordless power banks for your phone.
- Attend the sessions - a conference is not just a junket for a free company paid holiday but a wealth of industry information. So try and attend all if not most of the sessions. You never know, you might just come out with that one tip that you need to take your business to the next level.
- Try your best to stay at the event where the conference is being held. Let's face it, not a lot of networking happens when you are sitting down and listening to keynote speakers talking about new fandangle systems, or how they have developed their business into a success. Most of it happens before or after hours at meal times after a wine or two, which brings me to my next point...
- Be professional – even though conferences are generally held at some exotic location, still remember that it is a work event and wear suitable business casual entire. This means no exposed body parts that you wouldn’t normally expose day to day in the office. Don't drink too much in the evenings and/or declare your undying love to other attendees, as this is guaranteed to be a career limiting move.
- Schmooze – be prepared to network, but no doubt you will get stuck talking to someone for way too long. So have an exit strategy, be respectful and excuse yourself politely and continue to 'work the room' networking.
- Work out – If you are like me, you will value the mental clarity after a good session at the gym. So ‘just do it’ and don’t fall into a holiday mindset and get your sweat on.
- Take notes – remember what you have learnt and bring some of these ideas back to the office
- Connect socially - be sure to connect socially (LinkedIn, Twitter and or Instagram) with your new found connections, personalised messages work best and build that network of yours.
- Share - when you return, you will have new found inspiration, knowledge and contacts, so don’t be greedy and share them with your colleagues….generously