Five Tips For Maximizing Your Time at a Conference

In a couple weeks, I’ll be attending my 5th AX User Group Summit. Over the course of my career as a recruiter, I’ve attended numerous events and summits. Prior to each one, I eagerly anticipate the introductions to unfamiliar faces over cafeteria lunch. While often awkward, these encounters are the main reasons why I attend these types of conferences—the hopeful enthusiasm that everyone has is palpable and the sense of optimism is infectious. It’s true that breakout sessions are prime opportunities to learn about navigating certain business challenges, but the real value you’ll get out of attending most conferences is the opportunity to network. 

That said, it’s always important to come prepared with a clear intention of who you’d like to meet, how you’d like to spend your time, and what you’d like to learn. Whether it’s the AXUG Summit or another industry event, here are my five tips for maximizing your time at a conference:

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1. Prepare in advance

Know who you are going to network with and where, create your own meetup group, and have a list of five interesting people you’d like to meet face-to-face. This helps you narrow the field among hundreds or thousands of people similar to you who are also in attendance. Also, plan out which breakout sessions will be the most informative to you and do your homework to prepare questions you would like answered. There is nothing more dull than a breakout session with the presenter doing all of the talking. Preparing in advance will help you become an active participant and get the most out of each session. For a full list of breakout sessions for the 2019 AXUG Summit, please go here. 

2. Plan your week wisely

Similar to my point above, plan out how you’ll spend your time carefully. Think about what each day looks like as far as talks and breakout sessions in comparison to how much time you’ll set aside to meet with peers facing similar challenges as you. This may take some messaging prior to the event, but it will pay off in the end—you’ll have a more productive time networking that otherwise might be spent scheduling. Most importantly, don’t rely on the events in the program schedule; take matters into your own hands and find time to get away for a coffee or post-summit drinks with a peer or mentor.

3. Bring a team

Sending a single person to represent you or your company simply won’t cut it. Prioritize the investment to send a strong team from across departments—that way, each person can network with others of similar skill-sets so they can better understand who is experiencing similar issues. The investment in airfare and hotels or the time taken from busy schedules is worth it for everyone to be invested in your business’s transformation.

4. Find a mentor

Perhaps this is a developer who is a few paces ahead of you, a manager who you would like to emulate, or a Microsoft MVP. Find someone who you admire and make it a point to spend time with them. What if you don’t have a particular person in mind or have trouble reaching out to someone in a similar industry as you? Feel free to email me at Danny@worqflowsolutions.com for an introduction. 

5. Have fun

It’s easy to stay so laser-focused on networking that you forget to enjoy the rest of the conference. While having productive conversations and putting your best foot forward are top priorities, make sure to have some fun around the city and at evening events. You’ll naturally meet others this way and best of all, you’ll enjoy your time spent in the process.

If you’ll be at this year’s AXUG Summit, I look forward to seeing you there!

Danny EnrightComment