The ability to attend a conference can be incredibly exciting while your actual presence can feel a bit aimless and harried. I am on day two of a grand assembly and realize that the only tangible things I am walking away with are the swag giveaways. I am really excited about this steel water bottle!
I know that there are a lot of overachievers who showcase their stacks of business cards and tout the “connections” they’ve made at the end of a convening. Gold star for you. I, on the other hand, cannot remember the last time I made a connection at a conference that translated into a productive, professional relationship.
I’m not advocating you abandon the traditional benefits associated with attendance. Not at all. In fact, here’s an article about unlocking the power of conference attendance. In addition to this wisdom, however, I am offering a few assemblage ready, non-conventional professional development activities.
1. Develop and practice your elevator speech.
Take every opportunity to sit with and engage new people. Why? Because you will respond to the “What do you do” question a million times. No, that’s not silly; it’s practice time. Don’t just respond to the question with your current title or where you work; tell them who you want to be.
Listen to how other people introduce themselves and modify your speech for each introduction. By the end of a two-day conference, you should have refined your introduction and be ready to use it during your next interview.
This isn’t the “use this time to expand your network” advice. Instead, use your time to conduct many “mini” informational interviews. Conferences attendees are at various stages of their career and attendees represent a very broad knowledge base. Develop a few questions general enough to break the awkward silence inevitable at a lunch table full of strangers. Take the time to ask about their career path and develop a model for yourself.
Don’t forget to listen for keywords common in your field today as well as phrases and efforts and that is on the cutting edge.
3. Grow your social media presence
This is pretty simple. Use the conference hashtag on every platform that you are on and recognizes hashtags. Scratch that, use the conference hashtag on every platform that is appropriate and recognizes hashtags. During a conference, I tweet and post quotes from keynote speakers, deep thoughts from workshop leaders, and of course photos using the hashtag and 90% of the time I get retweets from conference leaders and participants.
This is a good way to publically align yourself with issues that you care about and the field that you are in or looking to enter.
Remember, even the most captivating conference provides time to think and focus on something else. Why not focus on you?