With conference season quickly approaching, days seem to be getting shorter while to-do lists just keep getting longer. But before heading out to your next event, consider this: conferences are what you make of them, and simply showing up won’t provide your organization with much value. 

To make the most out of your next conference experience, take a look at these 10 tips:

  • Load up on reading materials – Now you won’t have much free time while you’re gone, but flipping through industry materials on the plane is a great way to mentally prepare yourself for large events. Not to mention, they’re great conversation starters once you actually get there. 
  • Join LinkedIn groups – Many conferences have LinkedIn groups for pre-conference connections and discussions. Join these and get to know other attendees before heading out.
  • Know hashtags – Not only will these help you to engage with others, but they’re a great way to gather insights from sessions you can’t attend.  
  • Review the conference schedule and know what breakout sessions you’d like to attend – This one’s a must. It’s crucial that you know in advance what sessions and events you want to attend. Don’t be afraid to leave some gaps though in case any unexpected opportunities come up!  
  • Come with questions – Think of conferences like focus groups – they’re an opportunity for you to ask questions and see what other people in your industry are doing. That being said, come prepared. 
  • Participate – Don’t just “attend” conferences. Introduce yourself. Ask questions. Engage in round tables. 
  • Present – Sign up to speak or moderate a panel. It’s a great way to build connections and share your ideas. 
  • Tweet key takeaways – Not only will this help you to engage with others, but it’s a great way for your coworkers at home to see all that you’re learning.
  • Blog key takeaways – Chances are, if you find something interesting, others will too. Share what you’ve learned with others on your blog.  
  • Apply what you’ve learned – The true testament of a conference’s success is how well the information presented can be applied to your organization. Sit down with your coworkers after the event and discuss which tactics your association can adopt over time. 

What conferences are you looking forward to attending in 2015? Let us know in the comments below!