Tiffani Mensch is ABN's Director of Education & Outreach. With 15 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, Tiffani is passionate about helping organizations achieve greater mission impact. If you would like to contribute to the ABN Blog, contact Tiffani at firstname.lastname@example.org.
5 Tips For Getting The Most Out Of Your Next Conference
By Tiffani Mensch on July 05, 2018
Conferences are an amazing opportunity to expand your knowledge, skills, and professional network. But, with an abundance of information packed into one event, it can be both overwhelming and challenging to get the most out of the experience. With the ABN 2018 Leadership Conference right around the corner on October 31st, we thought it would be a good idea to go over a few tips to ensure you take full advantage of the opportunities ahead. Here are five tips to guarantee your next conference is stimulating and meaningful!
1. Do Your Homework Before You Go
Like any good boy or girl scout would tell you, being prepared is key. Take time before the event to research the speakers, topics, and, if possible, the other attendees. Going in with a plan of attack is the best way to ensure you get the best bang for your buck! Remember, you don’t have to limit your networking to the other attendees. Conferences are perfect for linking with high-profile individuals, whether they be the presenters or the organization hosting the event. Researching the speakers and their topics is a good way to break the ice when attempting to connect with them. You also need to see what types of additional activities may be taking place before or after so you can adjust travel plans and pack accordingly. Many organizations are including early morning workouts or evening social hours to their activities. Bring appropriate attire so you don’t miss out!
2. Strengthen Your Existing Network
Conferences are a great opportunity to meet new people, but don’t forget to work on strengthening your existing relationships. If you know who is going to be there ahead of time, make it a point to sit with those individuals you would like to reconnect with, or schedule coffee or a meal ahead of the event to guarantee some one-on-one time. If the organization doesn’t already have one in place, you can take the initiative to create a Facebook or LinkedIn group to extend your networking opportunities. These platforms can be extremely helpful for rekindling existing relationships, and are especially helpful for following up on new connections you formed at the event. Don’t make the mistake of simply exchanging contact information, either. If possible, go ahead and schedule a meeting or phone call so your business card doesn’t get lost in the pile.
3. Choose Your Sessions Carefully
The most interesting sessions may not always be the best choice. Try to ask yourself if the topic is relevant to your job or organization. Will it improve your skillset and make you a more valuable employee? It’s not a bad idea to create a list of goals or expected outcomes to help with your decisions and keep you on track. That being said, it is also important to get a variety of topics on your schedule. Try to avoid choosing the same speaker for different sessions, because their information can often overlap between topics. If you connect with the speakers through social media early enough, you will have an opportunity to ask questions and clue them into specific challenges you are hoping they will cover.
4. Put Away the Smart Phone
It may be tempting to catch up on emails or live tweet the event, but, like driving, if you have your attention set on the colorful, magical rectangle that is practically surgically attached to your hand, you will miss what is in front of you. It may be too difficult to leave your phone in the car, but you could compromise by setting your phone to airplane mode during important sessions. Though they can be great technological assets, phones and other devices can double as barriers. This can make you seem unavailable or unapproachable, which is the last thing you want to do at any networking event.
5. Share the Wealth
The amount of new information you gain at a conference can be dizzying. A great way to better retain all that you learned is to pass it on to your colleagues when you get back to work. Speak with your coworkers before you leave to see what topics and sessions they are interested in, especially your boss! This is a great opportunity to demonstrate the value of your experience from the event and hopefully others will share your enthusiasm at their next conference. This will also give you a reason to take better notes and review the material while it is still fresh. If you’re confused about something one of the speakers said, don’t be afraid to ask a question or hang around afterwards to get clarity (which is another great way to stand out and connect with the presenters). At the end of the day, be sure to plan time to review what you’ve learned. Rewrite your notes in your own words and identify key takeaways, or begin putting together your presentation for the office. Whatever method you choose is fine; reviewing the material is what’s most important.
Lastly, and arguably the most important tip, is to make sure you choose a reputable conference that has quality information and training led by professionals! Lucky for you, the ABN 2018 Leadership Conference has been designed to equip nonprofit executives, staff board members, and volunteers with the best practices in leadership, nonprofit management, and modern thinking for effective operations. This one-day event features national speakers, best-in-class workshop facilitators, expert panelists, networking opportunities, and more. Attendees will leave inspired and equipped to make a real difference in how they engage with their organizations to create greater mission impact.
This year’s keynote speaker is Paul Schmitz, who is the author of Everyone Leads: Building Leadership from the Community Up. Schmitz builds the collective leadership of organizations and communities to achieve greater social impact through his roles as senior advisor at The Collective Impact Forum and CEO of Leading Inside Out. Formally the CEO of Public Allies, Schmitz helped more than 5,000 diverse young adults begin careers working for community and social change. He is also a faculty member of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute, was a social innovation advisor to the Obama White House, and has been named three separate years to The Nonprofit Times list of the 50 most influential nonprofit leaders in America. We are extremely excited to have him with us this year, so book your registration today, because we typically sell out quickly!