4 ways to really make the most from a conference


Are you coming to the Not-For-Profit People Conference on August 27-28? If so, check out these great tips on making the most of it from Glen Berman of the Centre for Australian Progress – they’re convening Progress 2013, on 7-8 November 2013.

Some people just seem to be natural conference superstars. You can spot them in a conference crowd easily enough – they’re the ones suavely gliding from one conversation to another, pausing just long enough to share an inside joke, never missing an opportunity to make a new connection, and always leaving with a pocketful of new business cards or even a digital business card.

But for those who are mere conference mortals, we’ve done the hard yards of talking to the superstars, and have distilled their insights into three tips for making the most of a conference.

1. Choose your conferences wisely

Superstars know that not all conferences are born equal. When you’re deciding whether or not to go a conference make sure to ask yourself: what will I get from attending that I cannot get anywhere else?

Often, the best predictor of a good conference is the effort the organisers have gone to find interesting speakers. Make sure to study the speaker list – and look beyond job titles to see if the speakers attending are going to be truly insightful.

And, always remember that a conference is as much about who else is going as it is who is speaking. A good conference will always have a clear target audience in mind – if you’re not sure who the conference is aiming to bring together, or whether you fit their target audience, then chances are you can give it a miss.

2. Find out who else is going, and come with something to offer

The business end of a conference is never in the main auditorium – its always in the cafes surrounding the conference venue. Conference superstars scout out who else will be attending any event, and make sure to arrange 1-on-1s with anyone they actually want to meet (especially if they want to talk to a speaker).

And, remember, no one likes a directionless conversation. Conference superstars come to conferences knowing who else is going, and having prepared opportunities for their fellow attendees to engage in their work. Whether its an upcoming event you’d like to invite others to, a specific idea you’d like feedback on, or simply an idea or a report you want to share – make sure you have thought about what you’re offering others at the conference before you arrive.

3. Make action points – and present back to your colleagues

We’ve all made the mistake of going to a conference, and diligently recording every word uttered by speakers, only to never return to our notes again. Conference superstars know that its not volume that counts. Try taking two small notebooks to your next conference – and use one to record only specific action points, and the other for more general note taking. That way when you’re back at your desk you won’t need to sift through reams of notes to find the critical action points you want to implement – they’ll be in a handy little list.

And, don’t stop there. Make sure to get extra value out of every conference you attend by presenting your findings back to your colleagues. Committing to do a report-back will make it easier to get approval for attending a conference, and will also keep you focused on finding valuable insights throughout the event – the best conferences will even provide you with a short “insights summary” after the event for you to share with your colleagues.

4. Write back to people, quickly

The single biggest mistake you can make going to a conference? Leaving your business cards behind! Business cards might seem old-fashioned, but they’re still the most effective way of sharing and collecting contact details. Make sure to collect a business card from every person you want to re-engage after the conference, and note down on the cards what you talked to the person about – there’s nothing worse than receiving one of those “Hey there, I think we met at the conference, but can’t kind quite remember” emails.

Block out in your diary 2 hours on the very first day you’re back in your office (or fork out for wifi at the airport on your flight home), and use that time to get in touch with anyone who you want to follow up with. Remember – most people make up to 20 new contacts at a conference, and if you get in touch two weeks later chances are the person you spoke to has forgotten your conversation.

You are rushing to catch a flight to attend an important meeting out of town. But just as you head out to the airport you get a message that your flight has been cancelled or combined with another flight and you will not be able to make it in time for the meeting.

How will you explain what happened, to your boss? Approach the airline you are flying and chances are that it will confirm the facts and help you convince your boss, so the blame for being delayed does not fall on you. This might seem to be a small issue for those who do not mind getting delayed but both airlines and demanding flyers take cancellations and combining of flights seriously. According to William Boulter, Chief Commercial Officer, IndiGo, customers do ask for delay or cancellation certificates. Check this guide on how to get one.

And finally: don’t forget to relax and enjoy yourself!

The Centre for Australian Progress is convening Progress 2013 – the pivotal event for leaders, thinkers, and campaigners striving for a more fair and forward looking Australia. Leaders and decision makers from every major non-profit in Australia will be at Progress 2013 – and EthicalJobs.com.au is a proud partner. Find out more about Progress 2013 and see the full list of international and national speakers at progress2013.org.au

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