Business conferences are a mixed bag for most professionals. They’re exciting, because they’re big to-dos that often take place in fun cities with opportunities for entertainment and play. They’re intimidating, because there’s a lot on the line for your business. And most of all, they’re stressful, because of the sheer amount of investment and effort they demand.
With all the presentations, networking opportunities and events happening, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle , so if you want to make the most of your attendance, you need to strategize in advance.
How to Get the Most Out of a Business Conference
Fortunately, there are a number of strategies you can implement to get more out of your attendance, in terms of business productivity, as well as personal enjoyment.
1. Find a Reasonable Hotel
It may seem innocuous, but don’t underestimate the importance of finding a good hotel. You’ll want to choose a place that’s nice, with enough accommodations that you can rest comfortably. Without a good night’s sleep, you won’t be able to get much out of your attendance. Plus, you’ll want a hotel that’s close to the action; otherwise, you’ll stress yourself out trying to get back and forth all the time. For example, if you have a conference at the Aria in Las Vegas, it’s worth your time and money to stay close to the action. Furthermore, with so many options available, it’s important to check out  reviews before you book anything.
2. Read Through the Schedule Well in Advance
This is an easy step that shouldn’t be neglected. Most conferences announce their speaking events, workshops, and networking events well in advance of the actual conferences. Take  this opportunity to get ahead; read through the schedule and earmark all the opportunities you want to take advantage of. This will help you avoid missing critical opportunities and steer you clear of unimportant events in advance.
3. Meet Everyone You Come Across
There’s going to be a lot of people, and we encourage you to meet as many of them as you possibly can. Everyone will be able to offer you something, whether that’s a business opportunity, a tip about the conference, or just a bit more information about your industry.
4. Take Lots of Business Cards
One of the worst things that can happen at a conference is running out of business cards. Even in this digital age, business cards are a common currency for exchanging personal information, and you never know who you’re going to meet. Stock up early, bring more than you think you’ll need, and keep an eye on your counts.
5. Take “Key Takeaway” Notes
Most people will be tempted to either avoid taking notes altogether out of inconvenience, or take dutiful notes on every event they attend. Each of these approaches has disadvantages; instead, strive  to take “key takeaway” notes that help you get to the core messages of each event. This will help you keep everything high level, staying out of the weeds but still walking away with key notes you can reference in the future.
6. Attend Workshops
Speaking events are nice, and most conferences have an element of wandering around, but you stand to gain the most value in the workshops. In workshops, you’ll be working with other people in your industry of varying degrees of experience, and best of all, you’ll be doing hands-on work to improve a niche skillset.
7. Organize Private Get-Togethers
There will be lots of networking events and opportunities to meet people in the conference itself, but go out of your way to host and organize some private get-togethers. These are even better ways to get to know people.
8. Make Time for Yourself
This is possibly one of the most-neglected ways to get more out of a professional conference; you have  to make time for yourself. You’re the person responsible for listening, working and pitching your business. You’re only going to be able to perform well if you’re in the right mindset. Make sure you’re getting enough rest, eating right, and taking time to have some fun on your own.
Keeping the Balance
The best secret to efficiency and enjoyment in conference attendance is maintaining a balance; balancing cost and effectiveness, balancing professional and personal, and balancing effort with stress. Keep these things in balance, and you’ll end up getting more than your money’s worth in every conference you attend.
Conference  Photo via Shutterstock