Making the Most of Your Conference Experience

By Bill McGuire, Principal, W.M.McGuire, LLC on Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

It’s that time of the year again. Conferences, seminars, workshops and other types of gathering are one of the most valuable resources for those in the advisor community. There are significant opportunities to benefit from the educational, networking, and business development components of these events. Besides, nothing replaces the opportunity to meet face-to-face with your peers.. But like any other business activity, proper planning is essential. Here are 6 ways you can ensure a successful experience.

1. Do your homework
There are new conferences each year, so research the ones that are the best fit for you. Weigh all the options: national vs. regional, large vs. small, the focus of event. Are the speakers, sessions, sponsors/exhibitors aligned with your business goals? And last but not least, factor your budget – the admission, airfare, hotels, etc.

2: Create your own agenda
From the beginning, set clear goals. What do want you to gain from the conference? Who do you want to meet? What do you want to learn and can you receive CE credits? Make a schedule ahead of time and account for every hour of the day…and night. And include social/networking events, workshops, and other extra-circular activities offered.
3: Engage with the conference community
In the weeks leading up to the event, let others know that you’ll be attending through your LinkedIn update and follow the event on Twitter to engage with the community. Find out if colleagues or clients will be attending and exchange ideas on what they’re plans are. Regularly check the conference website for any last minute news, session additions /cancellations or updates.

4: Be prepared with your conference survival kit
The devil is in details is especially true for conferences, so remember to pack a foldable tote bag into your luggage, layers of clothing, and comfortable shoes.  Also, plan ahead for special meals, bring lots of business cards, and plan for irregular hours. And a bonus tip: stay hydrated by having a water bottle with you during the day.

5: Be “ON” your game
OK, it’s the first day of the conference; this is where the rubber meets the road. Pace yourself by planning for early mornings and late nights. Take a few moments at the start of the day to know where you’re going by reviewing the directory/map to orient yourself with the session rooms, food areas, and restrooms.
When it comes to the sessions, be nimble. If a session is not what you expected, move on to an alternate session.  And remember to take notes after each session and create takeaway follow-up actions from each session.
And most important, be “ON” at all times - some of your best connections can be made on the coffee line.

6: It’s all in the follow-up
The conference may be over but, for those who want to make the most of the opportunity, your work has just begun. When you get back to the office, reply to the post conference survey and let management know what worked…and what didn’t. Be prepared to share with your colleagues what you learned and the value of the conference. For the more adventurous, you might even want to write a blog post for your website.
And most important, keep up the momentum by following-up with everyone you met as soon as you return to the office.
I hope these tips have helped you. Now go and have a great conference experience!

Bill McGuire is principal of W.M.McGuire, LLC, an integrated marketing consultant who specializes in supporting the independent Registered Investment Advisor community. W.M.McGuire’s mission is to help businesses grow by applying common-sense marketing with a keen eye towards your budgets, deadlines and results. For more information visit or email

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