4 Tips for Making the Most of Your Conference Experience

By Bill McGuire, Principal, W.M.McGuire, LLC on Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

Attending last week’s Financial Planning Association of New Jersey (FPANJ) annual conference, reminded me of the importance of planning in the conference attendee experience. As with anything else in life, the more we put into something the more we get out if it, or in other words “it take more than just showing up!”. So, whether you going to a 3-day national conference or a 3-hour local meeting, here are 4 tips to help you get started:

Tip #1: 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.
Tip #2: 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.

Tip # 3: Be on your “A” 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. If it’s local event, give yourself enough drive time to get there early. You may miss some prime networking opportunities that often occur at the beginning of the meeting.
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.
Keep an your ears and eyes open at all times for opportunities and meet new people - some of your best connections can be made on the coffee line.

Tip # 4: 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 firm serving the independent 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. Connect with Bill on Twitter at @billmcguire5 or email bill@wmmcguire.com



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