Top 5 Tips for Conference Goers

Attending a conference? Use these 5 tips and tricks to get the most out of it.

I was fortunate enough this past weekend, to attend a writer’s conference in my hometown (yea – living in a big city with access to these sort of things!) Billed as the novel writing retreat for writers in the Midwest, Weekend With Your Novel, is a three day event catering to all writers, from aspiring to experienced.

Here are my five tips for surviving any conference.

1. Stay Hydrated. This one may sound like a no-brainer or it may sound counter-intuitive depending on who you are, but hear me out. Conference rooms can be big, airy places, which might dry you out. Drink water. Not only will you stay hydrated, avoiding the opportunity to pick up any lingering cold or flu germs, but you’ll also have to visit the restroom more often. Conferences are often sedentary events. Getting up to use the restroom will at least ensure that you’re moving and getting some steps in.

2. Talk to People. You’re at the conference for a reason. Chances are, the other conference attendees are there for a similar purpose. Not your thing? Okay, but you’re going to be seeing the same faces over and over. Pick one and introduce yourself–just one–then maintain your air of mystery. I met a gentleman for the first time, whom I see almost every day of the week because our kids go to the same school. We just never formally met before we stepped into the same elevator on the way to the conference. Now I have someone to check in with after the conference and talk about what we learned.

3. Do the Lunch. If the conference offers a lunch option, sign up for it. Yes, I attended a conference in my own city, where I know the lay of the land and could have found a place for lunch with ease, but I would have had to leave the center where the conference was being held. By signing up for the lunch, I didn’t have to think about traffic or worry about time and I got to meet up and talk to my fellow conference attendees and compare notes.

4. Pick up a Pencil. Staring at a powerpoint? Great. Following along on a handout? Wonderful. Have a pen or pencil in your hand to take notes. Write down things that strike your ear. I believe this can help you be an active listener, allowing you to concentrate, understand, and even remember what is being said. With increased recall, you’ll have something to talk to your about over lunch.

5. Snack. You have my permission to raid the snack table or to bring something to nibble on when breakfast was forever ago and lunch can’t come soon enough. Afternoon sessions can also seem to drag on without something in your belly to act as an anchor. Shoot for something that makes you chew, but go easy on the sugar as it might give you a temporary high only to help you crash farther, faster. Having said that, a cup of coffee and a chocolate chip cookie balance right out for me.

Next time you have to attend a conference for work or are lucky enough to be able to afford one you want to go to, use these five tips to make the most of the experience.

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