Conference Attendee Checklist – Making the most of every conference
Remember that conference you attended recently? You booked because there were great speakers on the bill and an opportunity to network. You knew you’d meet key people from your industry, and you were interested in the topics, and attendees from the previous year had recommended it.
You left the conference on a high: you were motivated by new ideas and post-conference resolutions. Then you arrived back at work. Your inbox was full, there were more voicemails than you could answer, and that deadline you’d delayed was waiting in the office. Four weeks later you told a colleague that you could barely remember what happened at the conference, let alone think of ways it had changed your life for the better. Deflated, you made a mental note not to bother to attend conferences in the future.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Too often conference attendees show up to be taught and to absorb and hope that the conference will produce the changes they need. What is needed is for you to get into the driver’s seat and channel your energy in the right direction so that the conference is a place of serendipity, opportunity and choice. The conference needs to be a place where you can engage with the content, network strategically, and create opportunity. To do this, you need to invest some time before and after the conference, ideally at least a half a day on either side. If you spend half a day before the conference being present to the potential of the conference and a half a day afterwards capturing learning, connecting with people you’ve met, and following up on opportunities, your conference can be all you need it to be.
Personally, I am careful to check that the conference has ample opportunity for experiential learning and for proper networking, not just time to chat over coffee. I believe that traction happens when one has engaged actively through writing, talking and listening, and that networking can be assisted by the planned process, not just left to chance.
The Conference Attendee Checklist to make the most of every conference you attend is only worthwhile if you have first checked on three things:
- Have you made use of materials, learning and networks from previous conferences before engaging with this one?
- Have you set goals for this conference, deciding on what content you need, what networking you want to happen and what opportunity you want to create?
- Are you committed to spending some time before the conference preparing, and some time afterwards following up?
If you have said yes to all three, then go through the conference checklist below to make it work for you.
Conference Attendee Checklist:
BEFORE THE CONFERENCE.
- Decide who I want to meet at the conference – both individuals and organisations.
- Check the speakers’ profiles and work out who to prioritise to connect with.
- Look up the organisers of the conference and know how I can engage with them at the conference and afterwards.
- Read conference content material and prepare a notebook or digital note-taking in a few categories (for example learning, connections, opportunities).
- Contact a few people who will be at the conference on LinkedIn and let them know I will look out for them at the conference and why.
AT THE CONFERENCE.
- Leave my sales hat at the door (people who try to make sales at conferences are really boring) and be curious and engaged.
- Read any conference material and decide carefully what to attend.
- Network with peers, potential clients, potential mentors and mentees and speakers.
- Find and document at least three opportunities from the conference.
- Think carefully about my questions or comments and what message I am putting out every time I engage publicly.
AT THE END OF THE CONFERENCE.
- Find an accountability buddy to check in with a month after the conference to stick to my goals.
- Summaries notes and action plans and document them before 24 hours has passed.
- Write a letter to myself from my ‘Mentor Within’ and ask someone I trust to send it to me four weeks after the conference.
- Priorities one or two people to spend time with in post-conference drinks or on a telephone call directly after the conference.
- Write notes on every business card you have been given before 24 hours has passed.
TWO TO SEVEN DAYS AFTER THE CONFERENCE.
- Do some thanking – send thank you letters to whoever is appropriate, perhaps donate to a cause in honour of attending the conference.
- Contact everyone you noted you wanted to connect with and open conversations towards partnerships, opportunities, further learning.
- Share learning from the conference with at least one person who can benefit.
- Post-learning or news about the conference on social media or on your blog.
- Check back to your pre-conference goals and make sure they are met.
Print this checklist and the next time you sign up for a conference, take this checklist to your ‘Management Meeting’ with self before and after the conference. Use it to step into the driver’s seat to make the most of the content, the network and the opportunity that every conference offers.