We are entering the conference season and there are a lot of opportunities out there for you to geek out with thousands of your fellow HR pros. Whether you attend for the continuing education credits, to stay up to date on legal changes, or even just for the free swag and networking; you can find a conference to meet your needs. Even if you attend multiple conferences a year or if you only get to one every few years, it’s important to be sure you are getting the most out of each experience.
Here are some tips for getting the most out of your conference experience:
1. Don’t bring your whole life with you. I don’t want to see roller bags people. Everything you bring you have to cart around with you all conference long in addition to all that free swag and conference material you are going to pick up. Save yourself some back pain.
2. Eat actual food and drink lots of water. It can be tempting to skip the meals and just eat junk in order to get things done. It’s also easy to forget to drink water and it’s too easy to overindulge in the happy hour/networking events. Don’t forget to take care of yourself.
3. Talk to your neighbors. Get to know the people standing next to you in line to check in. Chat up the crew hanging by the coffee. Get into a meaningful discussion with your seat mates while waiting for the keynote to start. Exchange cards with everyone at your lunch table. And so on. Just don’t hang with your co-workers and never talk to anyone else.
4. Don’t focus so much on taking notes that you forget to listen. A lot of us attend these conferences to bring back information for our colleagues at the office so we feel like we have to capture as much content as we can. But in the process you can fail to actually understand the content in a meaningful way or even enjoy the presentation. So sure, take some notes to help jog your memory later, but spend most of the time actively listening and thinking about the content that is being shared. Besides, a lot of presenters share their presentations, or will if you ask.
5. Give feedback. You know all those speaker evaluation forms? Presenters really appreciate them and use them to get better. Are you active on social media? Participate online by sharing content. Know of a great speaker you’d like to see, content you are interested in, or things that would have made to conference better for you? Submit your comments to the conference organizers. The only way to make the conference experience better is to share your feedback.
Conferences aren’t all about free drinks and free stress toys. Nor are they just an excuse to take a mini vacation to Vegas or Orlando. You get what you put into conferences so be sure to go into it prepared. I’ll see you out there, HR pros and remember, badges off before you hit the town.