Attending industry or corporate conferences is a great way to get some great classes that are more focused on what you do. I rarely miss my professional organizers conference. Humans are herd animals and NAPO is one of mine. I thoroughly enjoy mingling with my herd once a year.
A couple of tips –
Budget and save for attending at least one major conference a year. It takes you outside your comfort zone, let’s you connect with peers who share your business experience and provides motivation, ideas and energy to move your business forward.
Have 2 -3 objectives – other than the classes you are attending – that you want to achieve while at conference. These might be ideas or information to gather, people you want to meet, or discussions you want to have with your colleagues.
Arrive well rested. It’s likely to be high energy the whole time and you want to absorb it all. You will hit overwhelm regardless but, you don’t want to be in that state at the first session because you arrived tired and stressed.
Ask peers what classes they found most helpful when they started out. Are there speakers they recommend or ones they would not recommend?
There is apt to be a lot of networking as well as the classes. Prepare a list of questions you want to ask more experienced members in advance.
Who are the people in the organization you like/admire/appreciate? You might e-mail them in advance and arrange time with them over coffee or at one of the meals. Once everyone is on-site these kinds of arrangements are hard to make. Again, you might ask the successful peers who they would recommend you meet – they might even be able to provide an introduction.
Conferences should be a positive experience. The trick is to pay attention to how quick all the energy and learning dissipates! Take really good notes. If you have a smart phone – get a recording app so you can record the sessions if possible. It sounds a little crazy but arrange for people to e-mail info to you after the event is over – seeing them in your inbox stimulates memory and can slow the inevitable dissipation. Plan to communicate with people you felt a strong connection to – that helps also.
I keep of list of to-do’s for when I return that is separate from the other notes. I jot down ideas, suggestions, people to thank etc. all through the conference and then tackle that list when I get back to my office.
Make the most of your investment in attending conferences – it can pay dividends the rest of year.