How to Tuesday: Ways to improve your Professional Conference-Swagger!!!
Wondering what conferences or expos to attend? Trying to figure out how to make the most out of your conference experience? These are questions both first-time attendees and seasoned professionals still ask themselves.
Conferences are an amazing opportunity to learn more about the best practices in your field through outstanding speakers and presentations, share innovative ideas, network with professionals, make new friends, find mentors and even job search. Understandably conferences can also be a bit overwhelming, but it is important to remind yourself of the end goal.
“Conference-Swagger” is achieved when an individual exuberates confidence in themselves and their craft, and has the ability to effectively achieve the aforementioned aspects of attending a conference. When at a conference you are marketing yourself and representing your brand, hence you will want to be your best! In exchange to attending a conference, you often feel refreshed, motivated, and determined to share new practices with colleagues.
It is helpful and essential to map out your conference attendance and explore ways to incorporate it into your professional development.
Here is a brief outlook in preparing for your next professional conference:
1. Planning – Decide what areas you will like to explore and learn more about. Research what conventions or conferences are taking place locally, nationally, or abroad. Realize that you should have a conversation with your colleagues and find out what type of professional development opportunities are available.
2. Funding. Most professional conferences require a registration fee. Whether the feel is a small amount and substantially more expensive be sure to create a budget that will include all expenses (registration, travel, lodging, and meals). Consider whether your company or department has a professional development fund to support your conference expenses. Take initiative in organizing your conference budget and demonstrate that you have done your research, you are fiscally responsible, and you are committed to your growth as a professional in the field.
3. Travel – How will you travel to and from your conference? Ask around for best hotel rates, car rentals, and explore the restaurants in the area. Utilize technology and online resources to conduct your travel research.
4. Dress – Be prepared for the occasion and knowing the expectations of the conference attire. Recognizing that you may have to be prepared for formal, business casual, or event casual events. Based on the type of conference you are attending you can be at a luncheon in the daytime and at an outdoors event in the evening.
5. Attending Sessions – Read your conference schedule and guide, so you aren’t scrambling to figure out what sessions or speakers to attend. Keep in mind what you want to learn and develop from each session. Additionally, attending sessions may also include meeting venders and learning more about what other company’s and individuals have to offer. This is a great way to learn about best practices, resources, and ways to utilize services in your field.
6. Networking and understanding the power of building strong relationships and connections. Collect business cards and always be prepared to handout yours. You never know whom you will meet or where you will build these connections. Be personable, professional, positive, and exhibit a willingness to learn!
7. Follow up – You want to maintain and establish your relationships and network. It is essential to follow up with individuals you have met at the conference. (It is courteous to send an email within 72 hours after receiving a business card). Be sure to keep in contact and send an email or reach out by phone every once in a while, whether it is once a month or quarterly. This fosters the opportunity to create a friendship with people in your network and increases the possibility of finding a mentor in your field.
It may seem simple, but do not be afraid to challenge yourself and attend a conference or session that you may just be interested. Conferences do no have to be work related to share a different perspective and expand your thought process.
Being open to difference and you will continue to grow as a professional.
If you successfully follow the seven steps above at your next conference and continue to build your confidence, you can improve your professional “Conference-Swagger.”
Posted by: Shevorne Martin, NYU M.A. 2012