We’re entering conference season again, and although I won’t be participating much this year as I’m nearing the no-fly zone in my pregnancy, I’ve been thinking a lot about all the droves of folks who will be attending conferences in the next few months.

Whether you’re a newbie looking to maximize your first conference experience, or a seasoned pro trying to see if you can take your conference attendance to a new level, here are some key tips to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your conference experiences.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

If there is one piece of advice I can offer, it’s this. Do your preparation. There is absolutely no reason to spend time and money on an event that you’re not going to think about at all until you show up and are rifling through badges trying to find your name. Do your preparation and you have a one gazillion percent higher chance of getting out of the conference what you want.

Plan What Talks You Want to Attend

To prepare well, you’ve got to not just have all your business cards in order and your outfits planned. You’ve got to review the schedule and roughly plan what talks you want to attend. Sure, things will change at the last minute as you hear recommendations from other attendees, but having a rough outline going in is essential.

Make a List of Who You Want to Meet and Reach Out to Those People Beforehand

This is the key component of planning that should never (never!) be forgotten. Make a list of the folks that you want to meet, and take the time to reach out to each and every one of them beforehand. Although in the real world of busy people asking to “pick someone’s brain” doesn’t work that often, in a conference setting where folks are pinned in the same event hall for a couple days, you do have a higher chance of getting a YES. Try your hand at as many asks as you can to build up your coffee roster.

Sleep!

No really. You need your energy. Recently I was reading an email from a friend of mine about her first experience at Davos and she was saying how she didn’t sleep for 7 days. If you think this might happen to you, prepare your body ahead of time so you can handle it.

With these four tips, you’ll be better prepared to face the exciting, overwhelming world of breakfast buffets and keynotes galore.

What other tips do you have to create a successful conference experience? What do you do to maximize your time at an event?

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