How to Enjoy Conferences

16 Apr

Conferences can be scary. Whether you are trying to talk to some people, stay away from others or just network, conferences can feel awkward.  Many people dread going to conferences and find them a waste of time.

What Makes a Conference Different?

In face-to-face or phone meetings, talking to clients or sources and getting straight to business can be easy, but at conferences, that is not the case. Many people feel uneasy about approaching a stranger and would rather check their e-mails on their phone or take another trip to the bathroom. Even though people know that this approach does not facilitate networking at a conference, they are still unsure of what to do.

How to be Effective at a Conference

Below are some tools you can use to help make conferences more enjoyable, relaxing and productive:

  • Act as if you’re not there for work
    • Attend panels that interest you personally—they don’t have to be related to your profession.  The new ideas could energize and excite you and help you think about work in different ways.
    • Talk to people whom you genuinely find interesting and not just people to make connections for work.
    • Make conversation about non-work-related or conference-related topics by asking open-ended questions and trying to get personal.  By using this strategy, you might find out more about the person and eventually, that information could pay off professionally.
  • Be confident and engaged
    • You are not the only one in the room who may feel awkward or anxious, so act confident, approach people, and do the best you can.
    • If you act confident, people will notice you. You will have more conversations and a better overall conference experience.
    • Be engaged and present at the conference.  Limit the amount of time you are allowed to do work for your office.
  • Plan beforehand
    • Check the agenda, so you know which sessions you want to go to.
    • Reach out to people before the conference, and if possible, arrange dinner, lunch, or a meeting with them.
    • Set a goal of how many new contacts you want to make.  This goal will help you stay on track.

Following some or all of these tips will help you have a much better experience at conferences.  You will be more relaxed, interested, and comfortable.  You will also make more business contacts and potentially further your career. Don’t be scared of conferences; instead, go in with a good attitude and an open mind.

by Amanda Lederman



One Response to “How to Enjoy Conferences”

  1. Christina Sukhu April 23, 2012 at 1:51 am #

    These tips are definitely helpful! I’ve attended conferences and have been overwhelmed by the number of strangers present. Holding onto your phone and staying by yourself is much easier and comfortable, but reminding yourself that other people feel the same way you do is a great first step to encouraging interaction. I like that you suggested planning beforehand which panels to attend and also to expand conversation beyond typical work-related topics so that you can create a connection with someone else more easily!

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