3 Tips for Making the Most of a Conference

by Ellen Lee on July 3, 2012
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Industry conferences can be an exhilarating — and intense — few days, packed with inspiring panels, workshops, and keynotes, not to mention networking over cocktails. However, these events can be exhausting, too, which can make it easy to lose momentum once you’ve returned to your daily routine.

Here are three tips to help you make the most of a conference and put all of those new ideas and contacts you gleaned from the event to work.

1. Prioritize your follow-up efforts. Don’t let that stack of business cards gather dust. Business-card scanners and smartphone apps, such as LinkedIn’s CardMunch, can help you quickly add those new connections to your address book.

If your new network feels overwhelmingly large, set aside the handful of contacts with whom you made the deepest connections, whether they were future sales leads, potential partners, or just people you’d like to spend time with again. Reach out to them before you get swamped with your next project. Better yet, if they’re based in your community, try to meet for coffee or lunch.

2. Stay connected. If you can’t personally follow up with each new contact, connect through LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media. LinkedIn, in particular, allows you to stay in touch on a professional level. With Twitter, you can follow short bursts of news from contacts and their businesses.

Facebook is more complicated. Because so much can be shared on the popular social network, many people are selective about the “friends” they’ll add — and may bristle at a friend request from someone they’ve only just met. Instead, “like” their separate Facebook page for their brand or business.

If you bonded over a particular panel, workshop or meetup, you could also start a small networking group online through tools such as Google Groups, BigTent and LinkedIn. That could lead to further contact and develop into something more meaningful in the future. You could also create a group on Twitter, making it easier to follow the people you met at the conference.

3. Share your ideas. Let friends and colleagues know that you were impressed with a particular speaker or panel. Write about it in a blog, tweet it, post a video, or email someone who didn’t attend the conference. Don’t keep your praise a secret.

Sharing what you liked and learned will help you remember it and motivate you to do something with your new knowledge. It will also enable people who didn’t attend the conference to benefit from its content. What’s more, speakers or panelists will appreciate the positive feedback and may share your opinion with their professional networks, too. It keeps the loop going, and may lead to new connections and help you stand out among the sea of conference attendees.

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