Sunday, June 8, 2014

7 Ways to Get the Most From a Conference

After attending the NSPRA national seminar for about a decade now and speaking at state, regional and national conferences and conventions, I feel like I have a good idea of some of the most important things to do to get the most out of my time at a conference.

NSPRA has a great conference every year with speakers and panels on current and emerging trends in the school PR world. I’ve gone many times and each time I learn so much new stuff and come home with so many new ideas! Even if you aren’t in school PR, there are conferences and conventions for your field that would definitely benefit you. Never stop learning and honing your craft, whatever that craft may be!

So, now I give you my favorite ways to maximize my conference time:

1. Start your days early! Don’t sleep in, even though it’s tempting. Get some coffee and get going. Show up early at the conference floor and offer to pitch in. You never know who you’ll meet.

2. Pick out at least 2 sessions for each break-out. That way if the first one is full, you already know where you want to head. If it’s a good conference (such as NSPRA) there will be multiple sessions that you absolutely MUST attend, so planning ahead will make sure you get in as many as possible.

3. Talk to your fellow attendees! I’ve often gotten more useful information and ideas through small-talk waiting for a session than in some of the actual sessions themselves. Everyone there is interested in the same things as you, it’s the perfect icebreaker! All you need to strike up a conversation is a simple “So, where are you from/where do you work?” and you’re off!! Try it! Really! Face-to-face conversations with actual people can be intimidating for social media fanatics (like me), but once you start, you’ll find it’s just like joining a Twitter Chat (#smalltalk). Talk to the people in line with you, talk to the people sitting next to you in the sessions, talk to the people in the elevator with conference nametags…you get the idea.

4. Don’t cut out early. It can seem like a long stretch, but some of the later sessions and the sessions on the last day are often less crowded and offer some really great opportunities for discussion and networking.

5. Business cards are a must. Take more than you think you will need. There are drawings and sign-ups beyond the normal networking. Also, when you get a card from someone, jot a quick note on the back to remember the context and if you promised to send them something.

6. Keep a master list of things you want to put into practice once you get back. I like to keep the list as a checklist on the outside of a large envelope and put supporting documents and more information inside it.

7. Use conference hashtags to share interesting info, photos and tidbits on Twitter and social media. Hashtags can also make it easier to find and share key quotes or ideas from session speakers. Don’t be surprised to see unexpected reTweets, shares and follows on your feed.


Finally, start planning now so that when you get there you hit the ground running! I’ve included a link to NSPRA’s National Seminar resource page for all the latest updates and information about their 2014 seminar and schedules. I’m looking forward to it and hope to see you there! Be sure and say “Hi” if you see me!

So I hope you find these helpful. Did I mention your favorite convention tips? What are things that you do to get the most out of your conference? Comment and let me know what you think! Thanks for reading.

- Jas N
@jasnsmith on Twitter

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