Get the Most Out of Your Next Conference

by Guest Blogger Justin Froeber

As I prepare for the first ever Chi Psi Mid-Year Leadership Retreat, I am reminded of the fact that so many people fail to take all that they can away from retreats and conferences, so with this pilot retreat upon us, I wanted to take the time to offer a few tips on how to make the most of every conference you attend.

Good Preparation is Key
Prepare for the conference in every way possible. Take a close look at the participant list, and identify those people who you want to meet. And make sure to meet them. Be ready to give as well as receive. Come prepared to share ideas and tips and to give useful and respectful feedback.

Network, Network, Network
Life and business thrive on good relationships, and learning to develop those relationships is well worth the effort. Network with a purpose. Determine what you wish to gain from the people you meet. Whether it is discussing common problems, finding someone to work closely and collaborate with in the future, or simply improving your communication and networking skills, no matter the purpose, the more hands you shake, the more you will take away from the conference.

Introduce yourself to everyone. Don’t depend on your name tag to do the work. During meals ensure that your table is a full table. The more people you sit with, the more people you will have the chance to talk to. During breaks find people to talk with. If someone asked a question or shared interesting thoughts during a session, find them, and chat more about it with them. Lastly, carry a note pad to jot down names and notes about the people with whom you interact. It is a lot easier to learn and remember everyone’s name if you write it down.

Be Active, Not Passive.
Participate, observe, discuss, and listen actively. Do not enter a room with a passive attitude. Remember why you are there—you are there to discuss and consider new ideas. So take notes. Jot down questions. Ask questions. Participate in discussions and activities. Be open to new ideas and opportunities. The more you put in to the conference, the more you will get out of it.

Eliminate distractions.
Turn off your clever phones and only use laptops when absolutely necessary. Social media is a great tool for following up, commenting and asking questions about presentations, but it is not an efficient use of your time while in a session. Be sure to contact other participants and develop relationships after you leave rather than being rude to your presenter. Save the tweeting, texting, twating, and wuffing for the end of the day.

The Post-Conference Reality Check
Following a conference the majority of attendees are at an emotional and motivational high. Feeling empowered, participants leave the conference fired up about ideas and opportunities. Filled with excitement and inspiration, they are ready to take on the world, but then reality sets in. The stressors of the real world return, and the conference becomes part of the past instead of the future. Do not let this happen. Take advantage of the opportunities that the conference has created for you.

Set aside time to follow up with contacts. Review conference materials and type up any notes—you’re more likely to use them if you do. Implement what you learned. Set specific short and long-term goals and most importantly hold yourself accountable for achieving these goals. Whatever you do, do not let ideas and contacts get lost.

Use The Inspiration and Get It Done
Take the advantage of the inspiration while it’s still at its peak. Send thank you notes to anyone who helped support your travel to the conference. Follow up with any new contacts you made at the conference by sending a brief email. Organize any materials that you collected at the conference. Share the information with others. Write up a summary of what you learned at the conference, and share it with your brothers. Schedule a time to present a session or workshop on a particular topic to the brotherhood.

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