How to get the most out of a business conference.
A professional business conference is potentially a great learning experience and opportunity to network and make new business contacts. A good conference can both inspire ideas and serve as an impetus for action. On the other hand a poorly planned conference can also be an exercise in tedium with mind numbing, boring speaker after speaker droning on while you sit on uncomfortable seats in an overheated, overcrowded conference room. With a few simple tips though you can make the most out of conferences and actually take something back home to the business which will improve you as a worker and your work place.
Before You Leave
There are a few things you can do before you even leave to make the most of your conference. First let us start with the basics. You should pack clothes which you can wear in layers; conference centers are notorious for having extremes of hot and cold temperatures. The sheer volume of people in the room can make things very uncomfortable by the heat they generate; each person in a room generates the equivalent heat of a one hundred watt light bulb. If you are unable to take a layer off when the time comes you won’t be able to think about anything other than when you can get out of there let alone take anything away from what the speakers are trying to convey to you. You should also be sure to bring some office supplies so that you will be able to take notes and keep them organized, a tape recorder may also be useful for keeping track of more complicated lectures. While taking notes during each lecture try to boil down things to one main point that you can take away. Something that is worthwhile and useful to you that you will be able to use when you get back to the office.
Taking Care of Yourself and Maintaining Balance
It is important to remember that the structure of the conference is not set in stone and there won’t be someone at before each speaker calling off a roll of names taking attendance. You will be able to get more out of the conference if you are healthy, happy and alert then if you dutifully sit through every single speaker, in the processes burning yourself out. The conference may get your adrenaline flowing but be sure to take frequent breaks if you need them and to keep up your regular eating habits. It is tempting to while away from home to over indulge by eating or drinking too much but you will do nothing lying in bed sick in your hotel room. Take advantage of the amenities the hotel will offer such as the pool, spa and exercise room. Don’t forget to set aside a moment to return to your emotional and spiritual center. An afternoon nap is a great way to enjoy late night networking and fellowship with your peers while avoiding feeling tired the next day. While all of this may seem like you are taking a free vacation on the company dime this is by no means what I am suggesting. My point is to make the most of your conference so that you can be at your most effect. Many of your most important contacts and relationships are found in events outside of the official conference such as informal lunches or late night drinks. This type of networking is invaluable and can offer insights that could not be gained else where.
Take Away the Most You Can from the Conference
There is a lot for you to learn at the conference both from the speakers and from your colleagues as you network with them both formally and informally. As you listen to the speakers try to take notes and jot down key points and ideas that you want to take away from the conference. If you can condense the main ideas down into a couple of key concepts it will help you remember and be able to carry out it in your own workplace. Learn from every experience you have and as you network with your fellow conference goers as well, both their successes and mistakes are useful to you. Be sure to write down the lessons and new information you learn so you will be able to remember it later and apply it to your own life. Knowledge though is not the only thing you will take away from a conference you will also collect a lot of business cards, brochures, hand outs and maybe even some books and tapes. You soon will have far more than you can pack in a suit case to take on an airplane. Bring some priority mail envelopes and some postage stamps; you will be able to mail as much as you can fit in them. You can periodically lighten your load by mailing some of these items home and avoid having to check another bag at the airport which can get very expensive.
While a business conference is far from a vacation it is a great experience, where you will be able to network, gain knowledge and further develop business contacts from around the world. Be sure to take the time to process what you have learned to have it translate into improvements in your business when you return home. This is the purpose of conferences and this is how you make the most of your conferences.