Attending events and conferences have numerous benefits, but two main ones are often knowledge discovery and networking. I’ve attended a lot of conferences and different types of events in the last few years and the following are my best tips for really making the most out of an event (some of which I’ve learnt the hard way!).
1. Follow the hashtag in advance of the event
I always have Tweetdeck open when I’m working anyway, so I just create a new stream for the hashtag for any events that I’m going to in the future so that I can follow the conversation in advance. It really helps you to get a feel for the people that are going and often means you can spot people that you follow already that are going that you might not have realised otherwise and can then meet up while you’re there. It also means you’ll spot any announcements from the organiser(s) such as changes in sessions or extra activities during the event.
2. Tweet to let people know that you’re going
Hand-in-hand with the above, but make sure that you tweet that you’re going to the event as well, especially if you’re going on your own so that you can make contact with other people to meet up with while you’re there. Also be sure to tweet along during the event and engage with the other attendees, sometimes the most interesting part of an event can be the debate that it starts on Twitter where people share their experiences alongside what the speaker is saying.
3. Check the programme/schedule
Sounds obvious, but do make sure you check the programme for the event ahead of time as on some that have multiple tracks you may need to reserve your space ahead of time. You don’t want to risk turning up on the day to find that the ones you wanted to see are already fully booked.
Also make sure you check what time registration is and what time the conference actually starts to ensure you don’t end up arriving part-way through the first talk. This will also mean you have a good idea of when queues might start to form for really busy events so that you can dodge them.
4. Follow the speakers on Twitter in advance
You can do this easily at the same time as familiarising yourself with the programme, and this will mean that if the speakers say or show something that you want to tweet quickly you’ll already have their Twitter handle available rather than faffing around trying to follow them and missing everything else that they say (I say this from experience as I always forgot to do this).
A second point to this is to make sure you do tweet speakers at events if you find their talk interesting, it takes a lot of guts to stand up and deliver a talk or presentation so its always really nice to get feedback from people afterwards.
5. Find out where the pre/post parties are (they’re one of the best parts)
You should be able to find this out easily from the event website or from following the hashtag on Twitter but make sure you do research if there are going to be any pre or post parties at the event as this is where the best networking normally happens. Some people write them off as being optional when attending an event but I actually find them the most useful because as well that’s when you find out about other people in the same industry as you’s experiences and can learn a lot from that.
6. Don’t try to write everything down
You see some people making the mistake of trying to write down everything a speaker says to the point they end up just sat looking at their notepad (or iPad these days) and not even looking at the speaker to be able to take in what they’re saying properly. Nine times out of ten the speaker will share their slides on Slideshare afterwards so you really don’t need to cram everything down. Otherwise there’s usually a plethora of event round-ups which will be shared after the event with the main points anyway in case you miss something.
7. Take a charger!
I have to admit I’ve been burnt by not doing this a few times so always take a phone charger with you when you go to an event. It’s surprising how much quicker your battery will go down with all the tweeting, note-taking and emailing you’ll be doing throughout the day. Most events will have a plug socket space available for you to plug in at some point but if you can try take a mobile charger so that you don’t have to run the risk on missing out.
8. Share the knowledge you discover
Finally make sure you’re sharing the wealth when you get back to the office, this could be over email or it could be an informal presentation to the rest of your team that you work with but do make sure you take them through the most interesting points from the day and any action points you’ve taken from it. Sharing is caring remember!
Also if you do have particular action points that you’ve found really useful or you implement something that works really well, tweet or email the speaker to let them know and I’ll bet they’ll be really happy to hear that it worked out for you.