How to Optimize Your Conference Experience

I LOVE conferences. And that’s a good thing because I coordinate the conferences for the Alliance for Better Nonprofits! However, I do understand that not all people share my extraverted view of conferences. For newbies or those less than enthused, here are my tips and tricks for optimizing your conference experience.

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Before the Conference

•    Register early for discounts and first-come, first-served sign-ups on conference sessions.

•    Research the speakers so you can choose your agenda appropriately. Session topics may not matter as much as the experts leading the workshops.

•    Find out which of your friends and peers will be there, and divide and conquer the breakouts so you can share information with each other later.

•    Get all of the social media hashtags and links pertaining to the conference beforehand so you’ll be ready for day-of social media engagement.

•    Turn your out-of-office reply on and leave the work at your desk. This is YOUR time for professional development. Be fully engaged!

During the Conference

•    Bring LOTS of business cards for networking. Pack pens and paper and your fully-charged cell phone (and don't forget to turn your ringer off during sessions).

•    Introduce yourself to everyone around you. Who knows, you could be sitting next to a potential board member or your new best friend!

•    Write down your action items so you have a to-do list that you won't forget after you leave.

•    Try to sit with different people at each session to engage with more participants.

After the Conference

•    Connect via LinkedIn with people you received business cards from.

•    Set up coffee dates with a couple of new people you met at the conference.

•    You remember things best when you teach them to others. Create a summary of what you learned and share it with your work team so they can benefit from your knowledge and experience. You’ll end up remembering more information after you’ve shared it to someone else!

If you have questions, contact the conference organizers. They’ll be happy to assist you in having a great experience. The Alliance for Better Nonprofits' first annual Board Excellence Conference is May 3rd, so sign-up today! REGISTER HERE.

385 Elle Benson is the Director of Capacity Building for ABN. She is originally from Denver, Colorado and came to Tennessee via UT Knoxville where she graduated from the College of Business. She recently completed her MBA in Leadership at Tiffin University. Before joining ABN, Benson served as Marketing Supervisor for LBMC, PC and was the Director of Operations for the YWCA Knoxville. She is the past President of Young Professionals of Knoxville (YPK) and served as the Curriculum Chair for the Inaugural YPK Leadership Certificate program. Benson serves on the board for the Friends of Literacy, Knoxville Marketing Association and the United Way Young Leaders Society.