It’s conference time! And I find that most of the conferences that I want to attend are held in the spring and summer. Do you plan to attend a conference in the near future? If yes, here are some tips for getting the most out of a conference! This is my guide for attending conferences.
By the way, if you are interested in the conferences that I would like to attend, they are Inc Growco, Black Enterprise Entrepreneur Summit, Ellevate Network Summit and BlogHer18 Creators Summit.
If you have never attended a conference, I’d like to say that it’s one way to accelerate your career. You may find your next employment opportunity at a conference. A conference speaker could be your next employer. Or another conference participant could be the joint venture partner you’ve been looking for. And a conference is a way to keep abreast of industry trends, while acquiring new skills. It’s worth thinking about.
Below, you’ll find many tips for getting the most out of a conference, in addition to the tools, resources, and products you may need. If there is a product that you could use, click on the BUY button. Most of the information in this article about getting the most out of attending a conference is based on my experience.
All the images in this post are clickable!
UPDATE: Post First Published in September 2016.
Tips for Getting the Most out of a Conference: What You Need to Know
A few weeks ago, I returned from the electrifying EWomenNetwork Conference in Dallas, Texas. Although the conference was amazing and newsworthy, this post is not about it, but about how to prepare for a conference. I will share tips for getting the most out of a conference.
Although some of the post is targeted to women, men will be able to use a lot of the information. The conference tips I provide in this blog post are based on my experiences attending conferences and craft shows in Canada, the US, China, and Grenada. I also want to add that a lot of the information you may not have thought of. It’s helpful that I have attended both national and international conferences.
Tips for Getting the Most out of a Conference: Before the Conference
Conference Planning Tips: Passport and Visa
Make sure that you have a passport that you do not have to renew within six months from when you plan to travel. Check to see if you need a visa to travel to your destination. Because I am a Canadian citizen, my passport is all I need to travel to the US. But when I traveled to China for a conference a few years ago, I had to get a visa.
Conference Planning Tips: Traveler’s Check and Cash
Budget how much money you want to spend: You have debit cards and credit cards, but if you’re not careful, you’ll spend much more than you ever intended. I was traveling to the US from Canada, so I went to the bank to get some American dollars. Two weeks before leaving, I had my cash in hand.
Note from Avil: I have a stylish leather case that I use to store my passport, extra cash, travel and hotel information.
Conference Planning Tips: Pay in Advance for as Many Things as Possible
Try to pay for as many things as you can beforehand. You obviously have to book your flight in advance, so search on Expedia and Kayak for the best price. I traveled American Airlines to Dallas and returned to Toronto on United Airlines. When you book your flight this way, as two segments, it’s usually the cheapest option.
InterContinental Dallas was the conference hotel, but when I tried to book my room, the block of rooms was gone. I searched for hotels close to InterContinental Dallas and found Best Western using Priceline. I made a mistake when booking my room. I thought I was paying right away, but I had to pay at the end of my stay. In the past, when I went to conferences in Washington, DC and New Orleans, I paid for the hotel when I booked it online. Try to pay for your hotel in advance to control costs, that way you only have to pay for extras.
Another reason for me is that the Canadian dollar is weak in relation to the American dollar, and it keeps on fluctuating. Locking in the hotel when the price is right, is a good thing. When choosing your room online, choose one that has a refrigerator, so that you can store breakfast foods and snacks.
Conference Planning Ideas: Comfortable Clothing, Shoes and Luggage
Comfortable clothing is an absolute must. I have never been to a conference where the days weren’t long. You won’t be able to concentrate if your clothing is uncomfortable. And remember that it is usually very cold inside, so have some clothing to keep you warm. (Note from Avil: I attended a HubSpot event in Toronto this summer, but the air conditioner was turned up so high, that it was unbearably cold. I was so uncomfortable – shivering – that I had to leave early.) You don’t want that to happen to you, especially if you paid to attend the conference.
Lark & Ro Women’s Sleeveless Twist Front Dress, Dahlia/Pink, LargeNine West Women’s Sleeveless Mock Neck Shift Dress, Popcorn, 10Jack by BB Dakota Junior’s Lauper Floral Eyelet Fit and Flare Dress, Poppy Red, 10Nicole Miller Women’s MIA Jersey Dress, Tangerine, SYUNCLOS Women’s Elegant Business Two Piece Office Lady Suit Set Work Blazer PantMarycrafts Women’s Work Office Business Square Neck Sheath Midi Dress 12 BlackYUNCLOS Women’s 2 Piece Slim Fit Suits Set For Business Office Lady Blazer Jacket PantsBurlady Women Business Suit Formal Casual Wear to Work Office Blazer DressBella Marie Helena-13 Women’s almond toe low heel mary jane glitter or suede pumps Black 8getmorebeauty Women’s Navy Vintage Suede Ankle T Straps Dress Block Heeled Sandals Pumps 10 B(M) USCity Classified NOLA& Light Tan Super Comfortable Foam Padded Chunky Block Heel w Mary-Jane Dress Pump -7DREAM PAIRS Flapointed-Ankle Women’s Casual D’Orsay Pointed Plain Ballet Comfort Soft Slip On Flats Shoes New Black Nubuck Size 8.5Ollio Women’s Shoes Faux Suede Slip On Comfort Light Pointed Toe Ballet Flat ZM1710F (7.5 B(M) US, Black)Lucky Women’s Emmie Ballet Flat, Bourbon, 8 M US
Ladies, take low-heeled shoes with you. There are many stylish low-heeled shoes, and make sure that it is weather appropriate. The shoes I took to China, close to the end of spring, were very different from the shoes I took to Dallas in the summer. While I was at the conference in Dallas, most of the women were wearing high-heeled shoes, but at the end of the long days, some of them were barefoot. They had very sore feet. That won’t happen to you if you choose your shoes with care. You can wear high-heeled shoes, but have some flats to change in. Remember to also take your running shoes, so you can work out in the hotel gym or when you go for an early morning walk.
Baggage handlers often do not treat luggage with care. So my advice is to get good luggage, but do not invest too much money. Get a size that will have room for all the swag you’ll get at the conference. When I returned home from the conference in Dallas, I noticed that my luggage was damaged. Must have happened on the return trip. The damage is at the bottom of the outer compartment, so I didn’t notice it when I was claiming my luggage.
I have to buy new luggage for my next trip. The two below look like good options for me to buy. I love the colors.
Note from Avil: Remember to pack toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, body wash, nail clippers, and a shower cap. Most hotels provide these, but not all. I have specific brands that I like, so I make sure that I pack the things I like.
Remember to Schedule Business Meetings
Going to a conference in a city where you do not live, gives you the perfect opportunity to meet with your online contacts in real life. Meet with clients that you may have in the city. Meeting in real life is a way to deepen online friendships. This seems like the perfect time to recommend practicing your 30-second elevator pitch.
Choose Touristy Things You Want to Do
I always add on extra days to my trip to a conference, so that I can see the city. Usually, I do an organized tour, then I do things by myself. When I went to New Orleans a few years ago, for the Association of Independent Information Professionals (AIIP) annual conference, there was a formal tour of the Wax Museum. But I also did touristy things by myself. I went on a walking tour, and that was a lot of fun.
When my niece and I went to China with The International Alliance for Women (TIAW), there was a formal boat tour in Shanghai, and another tour to a city outside of China. We went to Beijing first, where we did a four-day tour.
Conference attendees usually go to the conference, then return home the day the conference ends. You never get to know a city that way. When I went to Dallas, I spent two days doing non-conference activities, enjoying myself. I went to the Addison Galleria Mall, and was surprised to see an ice-skating rink there. I went to the Dallas Museum of Art, and I also rode the free tram car around.
Most cities have tourist bureaus; check online to see what the city has to offer. Arrive early so you can do touristy things to relax your mind and prepare for the conference.
Get Business Cards (or not)
It’s often recommended that you get your business cards ready to take with you to a conference. The truth is that I haven’t had business cards in over a year. I have a trusty notebook that I write people’s contact details, then send them an email, which has my contact details in my email signature.
I also use the smartphone app Camcard, which allows me to email all my contact details right away. It’s entirely up to you to get business cards printed. There is an app, that if someone sends you a text, your electronic business card is automatically sent. If you know about the app, please let me know the name, thanks.
Another progressive option, is to connect with people on social media, especially on LinkedIn. Make sure that you have the LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook apps on your smartphone and iPad. And make sure that all your social media profiles are up-to-date.
Back-up All Devices
Before you leave for the conference, back-up all your devices – laptop, tablet, and smartphone. Accidents happen. Devices get damaged, lost or stolen. Today, you have many options. You can store your files in the cloud on Dropbox, or on Microsoft OneDrive. You could also get an external drive.
Conference Planning Ideas: Devices to Capture Moments
If you noticed, I said devices, and not cameras. And I did that for a special reason. I had the LG G4 smartphone. And the camera is 16 megapixels, but it also has a manual camera, that is a DSLR. While I was in Dallas in 2016, I took over 300 photos with my smartphone and they look amazing. The video works very well. I also used my iPad to take photos and record videos. Since my LG G4 works so well as a camera, I am going to buy a tripod and lights for it to take to my next conference. Another important point is that I have an extra memory card for my LG G4 phone. The sales associate at Wireless Wave installed it for me, so that my photos are stored on my secondary memory card.
UPDATE: By the time I head to conferences this year – 2018, I will have the Google Pixel phone.
If you are using your smartphone to take selfies or to get a snapshot of the slides, then you may not need a camera. Think about your needs, then make a decision.
Get a Roaming Plan for Your Mobile Phone
If you are leaving your country like I did, to attend the conference, chances are that you will need a roaming plan if you want to use your cell phone. My cell phone plan is with Fido, so I got a plan for $5 a day unlimited for travel to the United States. The phone recognized that I left Canada, so all I had to do was turn on roaming in the settings in the phone. If I was traveling internationally, the plan would have been $10 a day for specific countries.
I assumed, wrongly, that the conference organizers would have free Wi-Fi for conference attendees. That was not the case, you had to use your hotel room number and your last name to get access to the Wi-Fi. Since I was not staying at the conference hotel, I had to use my own Wi-Fi. It’s a good thing I had a roaming plan.
Essential Computer Equipment
Traveling on the airplane can be a hassle these days. If you travel with a laptop computer, you often have to boot it up when going through security. To bypass that, I bought an iPad. I am new to Apple products, and I didn’t have enough time to learn how to use my tablet properly. I learned the basics. I love my iPad, but as someone who is over 40, I found that I needed a keyboard and a mouse to feel like I am in control. Even though I figured out how to block text to copy, I still want to use a mouse.
The other thing I discovered while at the conference, when I was writing my blog posts at night, mobile apps often do not have all the functionalities of web apps. I discovered this while I tried to work with Canva for the iPad. I couldn’t access my photos in Dropbox, it only connected to the iPad Gallery (Now I know how to connect my download files from DropBox to my iPad and vice versa). I am going to purchase a key board and a mouse. If you plan to take an iPad instead of a laptop to a conference, I recommend that you do the same thing. To be able to use a mouse with your iPad, you need an adapter. I am also seriously considering this Microsoft foldable keyword. It would work with my smartphone and iPad. What are your thoughts?
2017 Latest Model Apple iPad 9.7-Inch Retina Display, 128GB, WIFI – SilverNew Trent iPad Keyboard Case Airbender Star with Detachable Wireless Bluetooth Smart KeyboardAmazonBasics Micro USB to Lightning Adapter – Apple MFi CertifiedApple Magic Bluetooth Mouse (MB829) – Laser MiceMicrosoft Universal Foldable Keyboard for iPad, iPhone, Android devices, and Windows tablets
Conference Planning Ideas: Note-taking Tools
You may take notes on your laptop or tablet, but if you’ve been reading this blog for a while now, you know that I take notes by hand. I use the Livescribe Echo Smartpen. I love my smartpen, but a major shortcoming it has is that it does not recognize tables. It’s fine for a PDF document, but when I use my smartpen and notebook, I export my notes to Microsoft Word.
Several months after I bought my Livescribe Echo Smartpen, I learned about the Wacom Bamboo Spark. This is a digital note-taking tool that works with the iPad. I have decided that I also want to invest in this device as well. I am learning to doodle, and the Wacom Bamboo Spark is ideal for that.
Related Post: Most Effective Note Taking Techniques – My Experience
Conference Planning Ideas: Power Source
One of the worse things to happen to you during a session at a conference is for your smartphone and/or tablet to die because you forgot to charge them. Additionally, you may not easily have access to a power outlet because of where you are seated. This is where a portable charger comes in handy. In one session that I was in at the conference, there was a line-up of people who wanted to charge their mobile devices.
If you need to charge both your phone and tablet, people would not appreciate you using two outlets. You can build goodwill by traveling with your own power strip. That way you can charge more than one device at a time, and invite others to use your extra outlets. If you are someone who has never traveled internationally, you may not think about this, but chances are you’ll need a power converter as well.
Conference Planning Ideas: Go through the Conference Agenda
You are attending the conference for specific reasons, so you want to get the most from it. Carefully go through the conference agenda, selecting the sessions that will make you more valuable and marketable. Schedule them into your calendar.
If there are concurrent sessions that you’d like to attend, when you get to the conference, find someone who is going to those sessions that you cannot attend. Offer to share your notes if they’ll do the same for you. That’s also one way for you to network.
Tips for Getting the Most out of a Conference: During the Conference
- Live tweet using the conference hashtag if you feel comfortable doing so.
- Take detailed notes. Something I do which helps, is while taking notes, write how the information applies to me, and what areas of my life I can apply it. This is a more proactive form of note-taking.
- Invite people who you do not know to have lunch with you.
- During a break, sit in the lobby or common area for conference attendees. I met a lot of interesting people that way. And I even met a Facebook friend in real life.
- Connect with your new contacts on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.
Tips for Getting the Most out of a Conference: After the Conference
- Turn your notes into blog posts. It helps to cement the new information into your brain. If you do not have a blog, consider publishing your articles on LinkedIn’s publishing platform.
- If you thought that the information at the conference was outstanding – perhaps even game changing, write an e-book with your unique insights to sell on Amazon.
- Input information on business cards into your customer relationship management tool.
- With smartphones, when you use an app such as Camcard, when you scan the card, the information goes into your contacts.
- You can also do this while at the conference.
- You can use an app such as Helium to back up the data on your smartphone.
- Email your new contacts. It’s worth mentioning that some of the people with whom you had a great rapport with at the conference will not respond to you when you reach out. Don’t let that bother you, it’s their loss.
- Apply what you learned at the conference.
I hope that you will find a few of these tips for getting the most out of a conference useful. By the way, since I mentioned that after the conference, you turn your notes into blog posts, here are mine.
Further Reading: What I Learned at the Conference in Dallas
If you enjoyed this post and the three based on my conference notes, please consider sharing them on social media.