Getting involved in athletic training conferences or conventions can do a lot for your career. You’ll learn about the latest industry trends, gain some new skills, and make new friends. And maybe there’ll be some free food.
But all those speakers, sessions, contacts, and conversations can be a little overwhelming. If you’re going to an event, what should you plan on besides bringing business cards (I love the new QR code option)? Find out how to make the most of your next conference, from prepping beforehand to having a great time while you’re there.
Before the Conference
1. Increase your visibility
Participating in a conference is one of the best ways to maximize your experience, whether as a presenter, a session facilitator, or a committee volunteer. During the conference, you’ll be among hundreds or thousands of other participants, but if you take on a visible role, you’ll stand out from the crowd. (When you see the initial conference announcement, see if these options are available or contact the conference organizer directly.)
2. Strengthen relationships
During a conference, you can meet new people, but you can also build on existing relationships. Get in touch with the VIPs who matter to you, vendors, and friends-of-friends who will attend the conference a few weeks before the event to arrange to meet for coffee or a meal while you’re there.
At the Conference
3. Get Briefed
A lot of conferences try to make newcomers feel welcome and have a newcomer’s briefing for them. This type of event is definitely worth scheduling into your schedule – not only to get the scoop on things but also to meet other participants who are just like you, unsure, and looking for some new connections.
4. Select the Right Sessions
There are usually more sessions than you can attend at most conferences. Plan your schedule by looking at the entire conference. Make sure you’re attending a wide range of topics, skill-building sessions, and social events, while still giving yourself time for downtime.
Do not feel bad if you find yourself in a session that isn’t quite what you expected. It’s important to use your conference time wisely and to get the most out of what you are learning and experiencing.
5. Apply what you’ve learned
Days packed with speakers and sessions mean there’s a lot to take in -and you’re probably not going to remember everything when you get home. So, arrange your notes and information in a way that makes them easy to find when you get back to work. No matter what note-taking format you prefer (pen and paper, laptop, tablet, smartphone), at the end of every session you attend, list the three main takeaways and any follow-up you want to do on the topic. Your memory will be refreshed and you will know what to do when you return to work.
6. Connect With the Speakers
Almost all conference speakers and panelists are key experts in your field, so they’re people you want to meet. Please do not be afraid to ask questions or to hang around (even as the last person) after a session to say hello, thank the presenter, and get their business cards. You can also follow up by asking them on Twitter if you don’t get a chance to ask in person.
7. Network at social events
Don’t miss the conference’s social events-they’re a great way to meet people in a more relaxed atmosphere. The events are often more valuable than the sessions! You shouldn’t be hesitant to stay after the event is over—you don’t want to cut off a wonderful conversation just to be on time.
8. Turn off your smartphone
You may be thinking: “But—they told me to tweet about the event!” But here’s the thing: You’re at a conference to make in-person connections, so don’t let your electronic devices get in the way. Tweeting about the event is just a marketing tool for the conference. Don’t feel like you need to disconnect completely unless you’re taking notes, put your phone away. Especially when you’re waiting for a session to start, taking a break, or in a social situation where you can have conversations with other attendees around you.
After the Conference
9. Friendly Follow-up
You collected business cards, new Facebook friends, and Twitter followers at the conference. What should you do next? Send a personal follow-up to everyone you met within a week of returning from the event to let them know how much you enjoyed meeting them. Make sure you schedule a phone call or face-to-face/virtual meeting with anyone you want to do business with.
10. Pay it Forward
At the conference, you gained a lot of information, inspiration, and contacts that you can share with your friends, colleagues, and coworkers. Tell your boss about some of the interesting contacts you met, send out videos of the sessions you found particularly useful, and give a talk about something you learned at your next staff meeting. Hopefully, your colleagues will reciprocate next time they attend a great event by passing on their new skills and knowledge to you.