How to make the most out of a conference: #AUA2018 Edition
Attending a conference in your field is one of the best moves you can make for your career progression. You get the opportunity to learn about upcoming trends, acquire new skills, take advantage of valuable social capital and connect with your peers. However, we recognise that an event such as the AUA Annual Conference and Exhibition, the largest of its kind in the HE calendar, can seem overwhelming.
Apart from signing up for workshops in a timely manner and researching the location of the conference, what else should you be planning for when you have a conference coming up? From preparing beforehand to having a fantastic time while you’re there, here is what you need to know to make the most of your next conference.
Before the Conference
1. Raise your profile
One of the best ways to maximise your conference experience and enhance your CV and LinkedIn profile is to actively participate in the conference, like becoming a presenter or a workshop/session facilitator. While you’re at the conference, you will be among hundreds of other participants, but if you have the chance to take on a visible role, that is an easy way to stand out in the crowd.
2. Maximise your current connections
Many professionals use conferences as vehicles for meeting new people, but few think of them as excellent opportunities to build upon already existing relationships. If you know of people you want to reconnect with or get to know better who will be attending, such as peers, mentors, thought leaders, friends-of-friends, reach out to them a few weeks before the conference to set up a time to meet for coffee or a meal while you’re at the event.
During the conference
3. Map your schedule wisely
Most conferences offer an abundance of workshops, sessions and keynotes that you can choose from (#AUA2017 hosted 64 workshops and 7 keynotes!), many more than you would be able to attend! Carve out some time before the conference to map out your schedule and ensure that you will be attending events on a wide range of topics, workshops where you can learn new skills and social events that will help you connect with like-minded peers. At the same time, make sure your schedule allows some down time for both reflection and relaxation.
Top tip: If you selected a session that is not quite what you thought it was going to be, try networking with other attendees instead, and don’t be afraid to ask questions and figure out how the topic can be adapted to your work experience. We encourage you to use your time wisely at the AUA Annual Conference and Exhibition, and make sure you’re getting the most out of all that we offer!
4. Take notes you will remember
At a conference at this magnitude, chances are you will attend many sessions and listen to a high number of speakers, making it almost impossible to remember it all when you get home. Make sure you collect and organise the session information and notes in a way that makes it easy to access, whether at work or at home.
Top tip: At the end of each session you attend, write down 2-3 key takeaways and any ideas you want to follow up on the subject. When you look over your notes later on, these snippets of information will help jog your memory and incentivise you to pursue specific to-dos on the topic when you get back to work.
5. Get in contact with the speakers
Speakers, workshop facilitators and panelists are usually thought leaders in your field and connecting with them represents a valuable way of boosting your profile. Don’t hesitate to ask questions or hang around (even as the last person) at a session to say hello, tell them you enjoyed the presentation and even exchange business cards.
Top tip: If you don’t get a chance to ask your question in person, you can always follow up by asking them on Twitter or LinkedIn.
After the Conference
6. Capitalise on your new connections
If you made many new contacts at the conference and collected business cards, new LinkedIn connections and Twitter followers, you should take advantage of this pool of social capital and follow up with them. Send a personal message to everyone you met, letting them know you enjoyed connecting with them.
Top tip: If there is one connection in particular you are keen to impress and work with in the future, send them a handwritten thank you card within a week of meeting them. It creates a lasting impression.
7. Share the knowledge
One of the best things you can do with all the resources you gained at the conference is to share them with your colleagues and friends. Share your notes, send out videos of session you found particularly interesting, organise a mini-workshop for your co-workers and tell your manager about some of the interesting contacts you met.
Don’t forget, early bird bookings for #AUA2018 will open on Monday, 3 July 2017. Make sure you take advantage of this fantastic opportunity, as this is the lowest rate at which you can book your place at the conference!