5 ways to optimize your conference experience
Many of us go to industry events to meet new people, gain knowledge and experience or learn new skills. If you’ve ever attended a conference, you know that they can be a bit daunting, because they are high-paced, the days are long and there are lots of people. You are sometimes also dealing with a jet lag and lacking the comfort of your own home (and bed). To make your conference experience a little easier and, more importantly, more rewarding (in time, energy and money) here are a few tips to make the most out of your conference experience.
There are many industry events every year, each with their own format and speciality. Before you attend a conference, there’s a few things you need to think of. What is the format of the conference? Is it very interactive, with brainstorming discussions and long Q&A sessions or will you listen to panels and presentations only? What topics are discussed at the event and who are the speakers? Perhaps there is a topic on the agenda that you need to learn more about for your role in the organization. In that case, prepare a few questions beforehand that you can ask the speakers during Q&A. Are there other people you’d like to speak? Make sure you connect at the conference or at the social events. What else would you like to learn? Write down a few bullet points of things you’d like to know at the end of the conference.
While you’re at the conference, participate. TAUS events usually save lots of time for questions and discussions and sometimes also have dedicated time slots for brainstorming so there is enough opportunity for you to participate. Either make sure you are giving a presentation or participate in one of the panel discussions. Ask your questions and give your thoughts during the Q&A sessions after the panels. If the format of the conference allows this, actively participate in brainstorming sessions. But also join the more informal conversations that take place in the line for the buffet or on the bus towards the networking dinner. If you stay active you learn the most. A big plus is that through staying active you also have a higher chance of staying awake in case of jet lags.
At TAUS events, there are many speakers with many different perspectives, the pace is usually quick and the amount of knowledge and information can be overwhelming. Don’t let that leave you stumped though. Take notes of the interesting points the speakers make, write down their contact details or connect with them in one of the breaks to discuss further. After each topic it’s helpful to write down a few takeaways. What did you learn and how will this help you when you get back to the office? What are the next steps? Do you need to follow up with anyone? Discuss the presentations with fellow attendees at the conference and teach your colleagues ‘at home’ what you’ve learned.
Leave your computer, tablet and smartphone in your room or at least in your bag or pocket. Commit to the conference you are attending and leave your day-to-day work for when you get back to your hotel room. Don’t slip out of the conference to answer a few emails or have a few calls. If you’re not in the room, you might be missing vital information like solutions to the issues you are facing at work as well as opportunities to ask or talk about the challenges you are facing at work with expert speakers or just your fellow attendees. To stay focused, make sure you sit at the tables in the front. You can hear everything clearer, you have a better view of the slides as well as on the speakers and a higher chance to ask your question and network with speakers.
It is of course easiest to hang out with your longtime friends whom you only see at conferences. You can catch up on the past months and you know that you are in good (fun) company. However, conferences are also perfect environments to meet new people. People with similar roles in their organization like you, people struggling with the same problems and hoping to find answers and solutions. At TAUS events, the attendees are usually on CEO/Director (decision-making) levels and all looking for ways to make translation better in every aspect - a perfect setting to meet your peers and brainstorm together. Try taking a seat at a table with all new people during lunch. Introduce yourself to the person standing next to you at the coffee counter. Raise your glass with the person next to you at the bar. Or get on the dancefloor when the TAUS Haus Band plays their tunes on the stage.