One of the most valuable services provided by associations is hosting annual training conferences. These conferences offer opportunities for attendees to grow professionally through training and networking with other professionals in similar fields.
At the same time, conferences require an investment of money and time away from day-to-day duties.
Here are 4 tips to make sure that your investment in this year’s conference is productive and valuable:
Identify Your Goals for Attending
Quality conferences offer a plethora of activities throughout their schedule that provide opportunities for fun, education, and association business. In law enforcement especially, your job responsibilities can pull you away from attending everything on the schedule.
Before the conference starts, spend a few minutes identifying the primary reason(s) you have for attending. Are you mainly interested in visiting specific vendors? Learning more about a particular topic? Networking?
Identify a limited and specific number of goals before arriving to help you prioritize the packed agenda.
Strategically Plan Your Time
After setting your goals, spend a few minutes developing your personalized agenda. The goals you set for the conference will guide you through the overall agenda to determine which sessions and activities you want to attend.
One strategy is to use a three-tiered approach to the agenda: Must Attend, Sounds Interesting, Not Interested.
These simple categories can help you to prioritize the sessions and activities you definitely want to attend, which ones you would like to attend, but could miss if necessary, then others you probably will not attend.
Developing this plan will help you ensure you achieve your goals, identify potential times for necessary work activities, and help you find margin for those unexpected issues that always seem to crop up when you travel for business.
One of the key aspects of attending in-person conferences is to network with others in your industry. Every conference will offer opportunities for networking with both other attendees and the sponsors and exhibitors helping to support the conference.
This is the key component that causes us to spend the time and money to travel to a conference rather than simply clicking on a webinar or attending some virtual training.
Much of the learning that occurs at conferences comes from the conversations that happen around the sessions and during the recreational activities.
Take advantage of the times that are typically built into the conference schedule, and also look for opportunities to create your own networking activities by inviting key people to coffee or dinner outside of the conference times.
Beginning, Not an End
Though every conference has an end date, you should not view that as the end of the goals you set for the conference.
The training, tips, and learnings from the conference are intended to inspire you to bring them back and implement the ones that fit your needs.
Relationships either initiated or deepened by interacting at conferences should be nurtured outside of the conference to ensure they remain healthy and growing.
Missed something? Follow up after the conference. If there was a person or company you missed, use the conference as an impetus for reaching out afterward. Was there a session you wanted to attend but couldn’t? Most conferences offer access to sessions virtually after the fact. If not, request this from the organizers.
Conferences are important events, and with a little bit of planning, you can ensure that your conference experience is valuable and productive.