5 Tips To Get The Most Out Of Attending Conferences

by | Career Growth

Conferences and networking events quickly pivoted online in response to Covid.

However, many are now returning to in-person, or at least offering hybrid options, which means you’ll want to start dusting off your elevator pitch and networking outfit.

Regardless of the format of your event, preparing to attend a conference can be both exciting and nerve-racking, especially for introverts and those with social anxiety.

How do you get the most out of attending conferences, are there ways to stand out from the crowd, and what can you do to cope with anxiety when networking? Let’s dive in.

How To Get The Most Out Of Attending Conferences

The following are a few top tips to help you make the most out of the next conference you attend:

1. Get clear on your goal for the conference.

First, you want to clarify your goal or goals for attending the conference. Do you want to network with industry peers? Learn a new skill? Find a new job? Secure clients for your business? Maybe you’re speaking at the conference and want to position yourself as a thought leader.

Clarifying your intention for the conference will help you decide where to spend your time leading up to and on the big day.

2. Do your research ahead of time.

Once you know your intention for the conference, you can dive into the research phase:

  • What sessions do you want to attend?
  • Do you only plan to register for the main event, or is there a pre-conference program you’re interested in?
  • Are there after-hours networking opportunities you want to take advantage of?

Some conferences will provide a list of attendees that you can review ahead of the big event, and you might even wish to reach out to people at your target companies to set up one-on-one conversations. Importantly, you want to avoid being perceived as salesy, since this can be a major turn-off in conference settings.

3. Refine your elevator pitch.

Next, you want to be ready to answer the question, “Can you tell me about yourself?”

Importantly, you’ll want a brief response when meeting new people at conferences, as the standard 90-second to 2-minute elevator pitch you might share in an interview will be unnecessary in a conference setting.

Moreover, if you’re looking for a job, you’ll also want to be ready to discuss your work history and answer questions like, “Why are you looking for a new job?” in case you meet prospective employers.

4. Step outside your comfort zone.

Attending conferences is a great opportunity to practice stepping outside your comfort zone, particularly if you’re an introvert or similarly don’t enjoy meeting new people in social settings.

As my Pilates instructor likes to remind me, “You can do anything for 10 seconds,” and this includes powering through the discomfort of small talk.

Speaking of which, you’ll likely be meeting lots of new industry colleagues, as well as connecting with old ones, so you’ll want to ensure your LinkedIn profile is up to date.

5. Develop a post-conference action plan.

You’re likely to amass a lot of new knowledge, information, and connections any time you attend a conference. Rather than getting overwhelmed by trying to boil the ocean, identify two or three action items you want to complete from the conference. This might look like:

  • Read X book that the keynote speaker referenced during their talk.
  • Register for the Y course that the breakout session facilitator mentioned.
  • Set up a quarterly touch-base with Z person you met.

Tips To Get The Most Out Of Attending Conferences

What Is Appropriate To Wear To A Conference?

While what you ultimately choose to wear will depend on your industry, the conference venue and location, and time of year, business casual is an appropriate option for most networking events. You might want to dress in layers, as this will allow you to quickly adjust your outfit depending on the temperature of the room.

Also, be sure to opt for comfortable shoes, since the networking portion of conferences can often involve a lot of standing.

Moreover, it doesn’t hurt to bring a backpack or purse in which to carry a laptop, tablet, or notebook and pen to take notes, as well as a water bottle to stay hydrated.

How Do You Stand Out At A Conference?

One of the best ways to stand out at a conference is to ask powerful questions that get people talking. You can ask thought-provoking questions both during the Q&A session of workshops and when networking one-on-one. Not only do people love talking about themselves, but participating in the discussion also shows your thought process in action.

Another great way to stand out at a conference is to be helpful to fellow attendees. This might look like connecting two attendees with similar interests, or if you come across someone who is job hunting, introducing them to any hiring managers you know.

How Do I Be Less Anxious At Conferences?

Conferences can be anxiety-producing, especially if you don’t have the gift of gab. Personally speaking, I’m a fan of finding fellow introverts with whom to enjoy some quiet time together between sessions.

Please pace yourself and don’t feel pressured to network nonstop or attend every session. Give yourself permission to take some time for yourself and recharge throughout the conference. You’ve got this!

About Dr. Kyle Elliott

About Dr. Kyle Elliott

Dr. Kyle Elliott is the founder and career coach behind CaffeinatedKyle.com. His expertise is in Silicon Valley and high-tech. As a result of working with Dr. Elliott, senior managers and executives have landed jobs at Meta, Amazon, Google, and nearly every other tech giant you can imagine.

A trusted career expert, Dr. Elliott’s words have been featured on Business Insider, CNBC, CNN, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Fortune, Harvard Business Review, and The New York Times, among dozens of other leading publications. He has been recognized as a Best Career & Interview Coach, Best Resume Writer for Silicon Valley/Tech Managers & Executives, and LinkedIn Top Voice (the platform’s highest honor).

SCHEDULE A CONSULTATION

ADDITIONAL ARTICLES BY DR. KYLE ELLIOTT

Currently Booking New Coaching Clients For Late July 2024 & Forward — Schedule A Consultation Now

CaffeinatedKyle.com Job Search Launch Guide

Unlock Your FREE Job Search Launch Guide

Looking for a new role? Access my FREE Job Search Launch Guide and learn where to focus your time, energy, and effort so you can find a job you love.

Because the job search can quickly become overwhelming, I've broken this down into an easy-to-follow, 5-step process to help you get started. You've got this!

Thank you for registering! Check your email inbox for your guide from CaffeinatedKyle.com.