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 the Alliance for Better Nonprofits (ABN), East Tennessee’s nonprofit resource center. She oversees the educational development and consulting practices at ABN. Elle brought ten years of nonprofit and business consulting experience into assisting in the creation of ABN. Her nonprofit experience includes fundraising, nonprofit program development, nonprofit and corporate marketing, human resources, board governance, and strategic planning. She holds a certification in board governance from BoardSource, a global network advancing board governance practices. She also has a certificate in group facilitation. She earned a business degree from the Haslam College of Business, and she completed her MBA in leadership and organizational change at Tiffin University. She currently teaches nonprofit management for the University of Tennessee Non-Credit Programs. Elle enjoys being involved in the community, having served on eight nonprofit boards. She is currently serving on boards and committees for the Association of Infant Mental Health in Tennessee, Friends of Literacy, United Way of Greater Knoxville, and Young Professionals of Knoxville.