Ready or not, conference season is just about here! But don’t panic. No matter how big the conference you’re attending is, we’ve got a guide to help you get through it. Behold, your 2017 conference survival guide!

Before the conference…

  • Create a plan of attack – Most conferences will post the final schedule a month or two in advance. Take a good look at it and determine what sessions you’d like to attend. (Note: If you can pre-register for sessions, that’s even better.)
  • Leverage social media – Before heading off to your next event, see what’s taking place online. Check out the organization’s Facebook page and/or LinkedIn. Then, head on over to Twitter and check out the event’s hashtag (if there is one). This is a great way to see what other people are talking about and who else might be attending.
  • Prepare your materials – First and foremost, be SURE to pack your business cards – and plenty of them, for that matter. (You can’t just run to the store and get more should you forget them/run out.) Additionally, be sure to pack comfortable walking shoes, a light jacket or sweater, your computer/charger, and tylenol – just in case!

At the conference…

  • Pay attention to social media – Now you don’t have to post (although active participation is always better!), but you should at least follow other attendees on social media (particularly Twitter) and keep up with the conference hashtag. (This is a great way to take notes AND see other people’s!)
  • Leverage the mobile app (if there is one) – This all depends on if the conference you’re attending has a mobile app, but if they do, we highly recommend using it. Conference apps are great for navigating the venue, scheduling your sessions, and socializing with others.
  • Network, network, network – It can be intimidating to approach people you don’t know, but really, that’s what conferences and networking are all about. If approaching one person seems too hard, try approaching a small group of people and joining in on their existing conversation.

After the conference…

  • Type up your notes – You likely spent a LOT of time taking notes, so don’t let that information get lost. Shortly after coming home, take some time to type up your notes and save them in a place you’ll be able to easily access later.
  • Connect with other attendees on social media – Remember all that networking you did? Well now is the time to put it to good use. As soon as possible, try connecting with other attendees on social media. A good rule of thumb is to follow up with people within 72 hours of attending an event.
  • Meet with your team/discuss key takeaways – This is where the real value of a conference comes into play. Sit down with your coworkers after the event and discuss which tactics your association can adopt over time. Be sure to discuss both short-term and long-term goals.

Now this is really just an overview of how to maximize your conference experience. For more tips and best practices, check out our complete 2017 Conference Survival Guide below!