HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR ATTENDANCE
· Select a conference to attend if you would like to acquire “how to” expertise or to gather industry insights and intelligence.
· Selecting a conference to attend is often closely linked to abstract submission. Many organisations will only sponsor their staff if they have had an abstract accepted.
· Submitting abstracts and presenting will enhance your CV and help raise your profile.
· If you are struggling to find money to attend a conference significant reductions are often available with early-bird registration. You can also apply for support through your organisation or contact the conference convenors, to see if scholarships are available.
· Go through the website.
· To organise a conference, plan well in advance in regards to speakers, venue, catering, program, social events, accommodation etc.
· Plan your travel well in advance. Convenors often plan the program so the last session is one not to be missed.
· If you are presenting a paper or a poster, read and follow any instructions provided.
· Posters should be attractive and easy to read.
DURING THE CONFERENCE
· Register early.
· Bring business cards to help in networking
· Read through the agenda ahead of time and figure out what sessions you want to attend
· Read the exhibitors list ahead of time and make a list of people and companies you want to speak with.
· If conference abstracts are provided, read them before attending the session so you can start to think of questions.
· Wear comfortable shoes
· Consciously choose to attend those on topics you don’t already know a lot about.
· If you’re a Twitter user, then by all means tweet up a storm during and between sessions, using the conference’s hashtag. Raising your visibility in the Twittersphere is an excellent way to ensure that people who are interested in the things you’re interested in will actually connect with you
· For each session you attend, a good starting point is to aim for three takeaways or points from the presentation.
· Take your Laptop or tablet. Capture notes electronically so you can more easily retrieve and use them later. Consider the conference's key messages, and if there is anything you have heard that has implications for you and/ or your organisation, take it down. This will help with your reflections, and any reports you may be expected to write about the conference once you return to work.
LOOK AFTER YOURSELF
· Plan some exercise during the conference such as an early morning/evening walk or swim, or a lunchtime walk with other delegates as sitting all day can get quite uncomfortable and is conducive to sleep.
· Dress comfortably and in layers. Some rooms may get hot and stuffy while others are cold so be prepared for both.
· Take a bottle of water to all sessions and drink it, it will keep you hydrated and awake.
· Wear your name badge and check that your name can be seen.
· Take your list of companies, speakers or attendees you most want to meet or connect with. Identify speakers when they present as it will make them easy to locate later in the conference.
· Be approachable: If you don't know many people at the conference, introduce yourself to someone new. Don’t spend all your time outside of conference sessions using your phone or immersed in reading material. Most people love talking about themselves and their work and appreciate others showing an interest.
· Attend interactive sessions where they are available. Workshops are often held before the main conference and can be a great way to not only develop or learn new skills, but also to start networking with people who you will see throughout the conference. Other networking sessions include breakfast and lunchtime meetings, cocktail parties, or conference dinners. These activities can be most enjoyable as well as productive
· Don’t be afraid to approach people yourself
AFTER THE CONFERENCE
· List down your takeaways from the conference as soon as possible and make a list of things you plan to do that have arisen from the event. In fact, you could be doing this during the conference. Then start working on the list.
· Can you or your organisation implement anything you have heard during the conference? Have you developed any relationships that need nurturing?
· Follow up with the people who you met at the conference. Email them to let them know you enjoyed meeting them and perhaps reference something you talked about. If you have promised to send information, do so as soon as possible and then follow up to see if it has arrived.
· Complete the conference evaluation. State not only what you liked but why you liked it as well. Include ideas and suggestions for what could be improved. Your comments will contribute to making the next conference even better.
POSTERS AND PRESENTATIONS
· If you are presenting a poster, make sure you stand next to your poster when required.
· As a delegate, make a point of viewing the posters when authors are present so that you can ask questions about their work.
· If you can't view all the posters, collect handouts and read them later. They should contain contact details of the authors.
· If presenting a paper, arrive early to check any audio-visuals you will be using and upload your presentation.
· Please keep to time - this is the most common complaint in conference evaluations. At best this reduces time for questions, at worst this encroaches on the time allocated for the remaining session speakers. See the document from the website titled ‘How to design a great powerpoint presentation’.
· If you are chairing a session, arrive early, introduce yourself to the session speakers and check how they would like to be introduced. Make sure speakers know when their time is nearly up so they can finish on time. Be prepared to ask questions and pull the discussion together and discuss with co-chairs who will ‘take the lead’ as session chair.
· If you have any concerns about the conference, talk to the conference organisers. They are the people most likely to be able to do something about your concerns