Success in your career depends upon how well you manage your professional development. A prime source of this development comes from being a member of a professional association that relates to your career. As a member, you can attend conferences where you advance your skills and meet people who can help you.
Some people, however, treat conferences as a paid vacation. They party, they skip sessions, and they return home with little more than a stack of receipts. That costs them (or their business) money and contributes nothing to professional growth.
Here’s how to get most out of your next conference.
Start With a Plan
First, make a list of your goals for attending conference. For example, this could include information that you want to gain, relationships that you want to deepen, people you want to meet, and things that you want to buy. Also, make a list of questions that you want to have answered while you’re at conference. This list will help you focus on your personal agenda during conference and will maximize your chances of returning with something of value.
Then, scan through program to select those sessions that will help you most. These could be on topics that teach skills leading to a promotion, help open new opportunities at work, or answer important questions about your career. If many valuable sessions are scheduled at same time, then select your first and second choices. You may find that one of sessions has been canceled or filled (sold out).
Highlight your top priority sessions so you can sign up or arrive early. These sessions generally have such great value that they justify attending conference, and you want to make sure that you’re there when they start.
If your boss must approve attending a conference, use your plan to justify your request. Be sure to include explanations of how information, relationships, and participation at conference will enhance your value to your company. Wise leaders always support someone who relates a request to benefits that come from it.
While at conference keep your list of goals and questions in mind. Begin each day by checking your list and identifying those goals that you can achieve during that day. For example, some sessions may provide information that answers some of your questions.
At end of day review your list and check off those goals that you accomplished. If you discover new opportunities, then add them to your list of goals. And if you find yourself stuck on reaching a goal, seek out a senior member whom you can ask for advice on how to achieve it.