Spitfire Strategies

Tips for Making the Most of Your Conference Experience

Mark Dessauer

By Mark Dessauer
Vice President

Whether you’re looking to sharpen your professional skills, stay current on new tools and trends or network with thought leaders in your field, attending the right conference can move you toward your goal. But just going to the sessions and listening to speakers is only half of the experience. You can use a conference to build your network and engage in much deeper conversations than just the ten minutes allotted to Q&A after the presentations. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your conference experience:

  1. Do your homework. Figure out which sessions you will attend and make a schedule to keep you on track. If there is a speaker you’d like to connect with, do some research and approach him or her before the talk, if possible, to beat the lines afterwards.
  2. Get up early. Exercise or an early breakfast are great ways to connect with fellow attendees. Use this time to learn, rather than promote yourself. While the temptation is to sleep, you can do that on the plane ride home. The early birds may not get the worm but a three mile jog with a fellow attendee can open new levels of conversation (as long as you are not running too fast).
  3. Connect with others on social media. Join the conversation by live-tweeting using the conference hashtag and/or each session’s hashtag. Read other participants’ coverage of the conference and like or retweet comments that you find insightful and relevant. If you have access to your organization’s Twitter account, send a few tweets from that too. Lastly, make sure to review Spitfire’s guide on live-tweeting before you begin.
  4. Get noticed. Ask the right question at the right time. Think about relevant examples from your organization or in your field that are worth sharing with others.
  5. Come back better. You will gather new ideas, followers and connections. If you’re taking the train or plane home, use this time to clean up your notes and reflect on how to incorporate these new ideas into your work. Put together your top highlights in an easy-to-share brief for your colleagues. Follow up with your early morning jogging friend and take time to review what you just experienced. Don’t let this conference become just another binder on your shelf.

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“This truly is the gold standard of executive training.  I have benefited greatly.”

- Roland Stringfellow, Director of Ministerial Outreach, Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies

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