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Preparing to Conference

Wednesday, August 12, 2009 by Slaughter Development

Tomorrow is the first day of blogINDIANA 2009. This begs the question: what’s the most productive way to attend a conference?

It’s easy to put together a checklist for this kind of event with tips such as “bring plenty of business cards,”  “carry a pen and paper at all times,” and “make sure your cellphone and laptop battery are fully charged.” However, there’s much more to a successful conference experience than just feeling like you have the right equipment. A productive experience requires the right perspective. Here are some powerful ideas for approaching your next big event.

Identify your objectives. Note that “networking” and “learning new things” are not specific enough to be useful goals. Review the announced speakers in advance to determine who you want to meet in person. Study the schedule so you can plan which events you want to attend. Prepare questions in advance—you may have the chance to ask a presenter or a fellow attendee, but regardless, you can definitely see how much you learned after the conference ends.

Review your personal style. Attending a conference like blogINDIANA is probably completely unlike your typical workday. It’s not even that similar to a networking event or social mixer. With so many distractions to conversation—from the snack table, the vendor floor and the scheduled programs—it’s difficult to have a meaningful conversation with anyone. Practice some lines that make sense for you, such as “I’ve got to run to catch someone, can we schedule a phone call to talk more next week?” or “Do you mind if I follow up with you by email?”

Arrange for an at-home advocate. Someone else back at the office or in your personal life is not attending this conference. They are grounded in reality, probably sitting at a desk in front a computer, and have the power to be productive and responsive. Stay in touch with your advocate through quick emails or short phone calls. Keep them posted on conference developments, networking contacts and new ideas. With the at-home advocate as your sounding board, you are able to stay on-task more effectively and remain connected to the real world outside the conference.

Define your post-conference workflow. The best time to decide what you’re going to do after the conference is beforeyou go to the conference! Most of us have established patterns for daily or weekly tasks, but unless you are a conference junkie, you probably don’t have a well-defined workflow for what to do when you get back to your desk. Take a few minutes to document what you plan to do when you return, possibly using a visual schematic approach like UML or BPMN.

A great conference experience is partially the responsibility of the organizers, but mostly up to the attendees. Taking authority and responsibility over your workflow will enable you to prepare effectively, attend with confidence, and be productive in your follow-up after the event. Don’t let process challenges impede you from benefiting from a conference! For more information, contact Slaughter Development today.

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