How to Have an Awesome Conference Experience!

Posted by on Jan 20, 2012 in Professional Development | 20 comments

I couldn’t be more excited to attend the amazing BlissDom Conference next month in Nashville, Tennessee and get my bliss on! Although this will be my First Bliss, I am preparing to make the most of it and have an awesome conference experience!

Attending conferences provides excellent opportunities for networking, training, and personal and professional development. Whether your employer or business partner is sponsoring you, or you’re paying your own way, you can increase the value of your conference experience with a little preparation. After all, why spend your money, time and energy on activities that don’t fully enrich your life?

Here are a few tips to improve your conference experience:

Before the Conference

Network, connect, engage.
Connecting with other attendees before the event is a great way to meet new people, build stronger connections, and break the ice.

Some ways to network before the conference include attending organization programs and meetings, following and participating in the conference hashtag on Twitter, and RSVPing to the event on Facebook, LinkedIn or other social media.

Practice your elevator speech.
Be prepared to tell people what’s important to know about you! The goal is to describe yourself in 1 – 3 sentences.

What are you passionate about? In what way are you unique and amazing? If you had a tag line, what would it be?

Order business cards.
Exchanging business cards is a great way to follow up your elevator speech with a powerful branding statement and provide your contact information. Don’t settle for boring business cards- let your cards reflect your passion and purpose!

Set your development goals.
To get the most out of your conference, decide what you want to take away from the event. Perhaps you want to make 5 new contacts, meet a particular speaker or sponsor, or learn a specific skill.

Consider what you truly want to achieve and make your goals a priority during the excitement of the event.

blissdom conference

At the Conference

Bring a pen and paper to sessions.
We all love technology, however I prefer to minimize distractions and take notes with good old fashioned paper and pen. Keeping it simple helps me focus on what I’m there to learn.

Move your body
Get up and move to another seat between sessions. Don’t stay camped out in the same spot the entire conference. Moving around you energizes your body and mind, and provides more opportunity to make connections.

Make progress on your goals.
Meet the people you wanted to meet, and attend the sessions you wanted to attend. Keep your goals in mind throughout the event.  You don’t have to participate in every event to have a great conference experience, instead focus on making progress towards your goals.

Talk to strangers.
Approaching new people can be intimidating, but I encourage you to make good use of your artfully crafted and well practiced elevator speech. You can start by taking a deep breath and saying, “hello”.

Smile.
Smiling improves your mood, and the mood of those around you. It also makes you far more approachable and open to others.  Whenever you can, smile. Chances are you’ll get more out of your conference with a smile than without.

Take care of yourself.
There’s often so much going on at conferences it can be easy to skip meals, indulge in caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, and stay up all night. Don’t forget to take care of you!

Leave home at home and work at work.
You may get caught up thinking about important people or projects at home and cause yourself unnecessary stress. Avoid worrying about work and home and make the most of the experience you’re having in the moment.

Have fun!
Life is an adventure; don’t forget to have fun at everything you do!

I love your comments! What other conference tips do you have to share?

If you’re attending BlissDom, please introduce yourself. I’d love to connect with you!

BlissDom 2010 image courtesy of Dawn Camp, collage by justmalia

20 Comments

  1. sounds really interesting
    it has been a long time since i attended a conference, i hope to attend one soon :)

    • Thanks for your comment, Farouk! I really enjoy going to conferences and engaging in networking and learning. I find them exhausting, too, so I have to pace myself, but I always enjoy the exchange of ideas, don’t you?

      Have a great day!

      Chrysta

  2. Hi Chrysta,

    This was super valuable to me. I have a conference coming up and I’ll be the only one representing my company this year.

    I brought pen and paper last year to the conference and was an odd duck, but I agree. It’s best not to have other distractions.

    I’ll be reviewing this again before I go.

    Bryce

    • Thanks for your comment, Bryce!

      I’m thrilled to hear these tips will be helpful for you at your upcoming conference. Being the only person representing your company can affect how to navigate and what you get out of a conference. I didn’t realize until I read your comment that my preparations to make the most of conferences are based on being the sole representative of a company and/or representing yourself.

      When attending as part of a group I believe it can be both more and less challenging to network at a conference. On one hand, if you’re part of a group you may be introduced around by people in your group. On the other hand, it’s tempting to stick with the people you already know because it’s comfortable!

      I hope these tips help you get the most out of your upcoming conference- I’d love to hear more about it!

      Thanks again for your comment! Happy Friday!

      Chrysta

  3. This sounds like it would be a blast, Chrysta!

    I’ve never actually been to one before. I’d love to attend one though! And you’ve laid out some incredible tips of the trade that will surely make the experience a fun one.

    If you don’t mind me asking, how did you find out about it? Is there a website or blog that provides the listings for them?

    I imagine you’d get to meet a lot of people at these types of events; not to mention the opportunity of learning and getting different perspectives on things.

    I hope… no, I know you’re going to have a blast! I can’t wait to hear all about it! I see a future blog post, don’t you? 😉

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Deeone! I’m so happy to see your name in my comments.

      The tips I’ve shared here are based not only on attendance at conferences, but seminars, professional organization meetings and other types of professional development and training. It’s good to come prepared to soak up quality information and network, network, network!

      I read about this conference in an article on the top 7 blog conferences. I’m so excited for BlissDom because it doesn’t focus solely on the business of blogging, instead it offers programming on business, writing, photography and life development. Clearly right up my alley! Be on the lookout for my post-Bliss blog post in late February!

      Thanks again for your comment. Have a grateful day!

      Chrysta

  4. What great tips you provided Chrysta, you sound like the conference Queen.

    I’ve been to several now so all your suggestions are right on. I know you’re going to have a blast interacting with all those ladies and I do wish I could have attended this one with you. That would have been so much fun. But I can’t wait to hear all about it and about all the new people you met. Will be looking forward to that report.

    Thanks Chrysta, great job! :-)

    • Thank you for your awesome comment, Adrienne!

      I’m happy to hear as a fellow conference attendee you feel these suggestions are appropriate for getting the most of the conference! I write about what works for me, though I don’t think my suggestions will always work for everyone it’s nice to know it is helpful to some.

      I’m so excited about this conference for it’s focus not only on the business of blogging, and also inspiring creativity and personal development. If the BlissDom conference goes as well as I believe it will, I’ll definitely be going back next year. Perhaps you can join me in 2013! I’m absolutely convinced you’d make a great speaker at this type of conference, too. :)

      Have a grateful day!

      Chrysta

  5. These are really great tips for any type of conference. I need to work on my elevator pitch. It was much easier going to conferences as an employee with a specific job title. This elevator pitch is going to be much more personal, which makes it much more difficult.

    • Thanks for your comment, Dana!

      Since this will be my First Bliss, my goals for an awesome conference experience are based on past conferences & seminars I’ve attended and I use these tips for a variety of learning & networking events! I’m pleased other people have found these tips useful, too.

      The elevator pitch is something I often forget to prepare until I’m fumbling through the “what do you do?” response. I agree it’s trickier when you’re representing yourself completely instead of another company or employer. I’ve got work to do on this myself, and I will be prepared to give my elevator speech at BlissDom.

      I’m really looking forward to BlissDom and getting most out of it- it’s going to be fantastically awesome, am I right? :) I hope I’ll see you there and we can make funny faces together. Maybe even in front of a camera or two.

      Chrysta

  6. I’ve never been to a conference but am eyeing a couple for this year. I would definitely be nervous since networking is something I rarely do! I would definitely need to work on my elevator pitch. I bet that’s used the most during a conference.

    I hope you’ll do a recap of your experience at the conference. I’m sure everyone would enjoy reading about it!

    • Thanks for your comment, Benny!

      I am far more comfortable behind the screen than in front of it and a few years ago I realized I needed to step it up to achieve my professional goals. I started challenging myself to attend more networking events and little did I know how much I would enjoy networking!

      I highly recommend attending conferences to anyone interested in personal growth & development. You’re such an inspiration and have experienced an amazing life so far; I can only imagine how attending a conference would take you to even greater places.

      Mastering the elevator pitch is a challenge, and it is also a great confidence-builder! Being able to eloquently and simply describe who you are is powerful and empowering.

      You mentioned on your blog that you tell people you’re a writer instead of a blogger, do people ask where you write or what you write about? Does this question come up for you often when you’re meeting people offline?

      Thanks again for your comment! Have an awesome day!

      Chrysta

  7. Great tips Chrysta! I particularly like the one about moving around; it can be so tempting to just sit in one spot!! Also, I liked the one about smiling; I have to remember to do that so I look approachable lol!

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Tiffany!

      I had to put in the tip to move around because I am guilty of sitting my butt down in one place and staying there. This entry is all about challenging myself and making my conference experience awesome!

      And smiling- I love smiling! As Buddy the elf says, “smiling is my favorite!” It really is my favorite, but I find when I’m overwhelmed I don’t smile as much which is unfortunate as I’ve noticed I get such a wonderful response from people when I’m walking around with a big ol’ smile! So note to self- smile TONS at BlissDom.

      Every conference I’ve attended I learn something new, not only about the conference topics, but also about getting the most out of conferences. And it’s a good thing, too, because I have 2 conferences coming up in the next 6 months and I want to get the most out of them- especially considering I’m taking time off work to attend.

      Thanks again for your comment! I would appreciate a RT in the BlissDom stream if you feel this would be helpful to others, too.

      Have a grateful day!

      Chrysta

  8. Great advice! I attended BlissDom last year totally unprepared. This year I want to be ready to experience it all. So I am being intentional in my prep. I like your elevator intro idea. I’ll have to work on that.

    • Thanks for your comment, Lynda!

      I’m happy to hear you find these tips useful as someone who’s attended BlissDom before. As I was considering how I can get the most out of the conference, I realized it would make a good blog topic. Even though this is my First Bliss, I have learned some great tips attending other conferences, professional organization meetings, and seminars.

      The elevator speech is one of the biggest challenges in networking aside from approaching a stranger and starting a conversation. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to tell someone about me on the spot, and having a thoughtful elevator speech can be a great help!

      Thanks again for your comment!

      Chrysta

  9. THANK YOU for being so generous as to share these tips. As a total conference newbie, I’m trying to soak up as much information as possible and this is just the sort of thing I need to read. I don’t want to get on the plane back home and realize that I wasted a great opportunity to meet lots of people, make connections, and have the best time possible.

    • Thank you for stopping by and commenting, Jen! I’m so happy this post is helpful to you. Writing about my self improvement encourages me to live a great life, and I love it when I can also inspire someone else to get the most out of their life, too.

      I’ve learned I enjoy life more when I have a mindfully positive and productive mindset going into situations like BlissDom. I’m really looking forward to the conference, and I look forward to meeting you!

      Thanks again for your comment. Have a grateful day!

      Chrysta

  10. Hi Chrysta! I’m glad you found the collage to use with this post but it needs to be credited to Dawn Camp (http://www.flickr.com/photos/dawnmhsh/), not me. She took the pics, I just put them in a collage for promotional materials. Thanks! And this is a wonderful post!! Looking forward to meeting you next month!!

    • Hi Malia!

      Thank you so much for the informaiton, I will make the correction. You did a great job with the collage, by the way. I was looking through pictures for a long time and that collage beautifully captured what a conference is about- building relationships and learning new things!

      I’m so grateful you stopped by and I’m looking forward to meeting you at BlissDom!

      Chrysta

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