Tips for Making the Most of Attending a Conference: Part 2

Lindsey Lassiter is a YNPN Triangle NC volunteer on the Marketing & Communications Committee.

In a follow-up to our last blog on preparing for a conference like #NonprofitSTRONG, we want to offer some next-level advice. A big part of setting goals and socializing is to have a plan for meeting the people who inspire you most. A great conversation with a fellow professional or thought leader can give you energy and drive for the whole day.

Below we outline how to make sure you meet those key people, and how to turn those interactions into long-term professional contacts.

Reach Out in Advance

This extra level of pre-planning is especially helpful if you’re more on the introverted side. The hustle and bustle of a conference can make cold in-person introductions a little tricky. Many conference websites or dedicated apps let you see who all is attending, as well as the opportunity to view a full speaker lineup.

Using an in-app message function, LinkedIn, or direct email, break the ice in advance by sending a quick note to the person you’re interested in connecting with two to three days before the conference. Keep it brief by highlighting that you are attending the conference and really looking forward to their insights on XYZ topic. Sometimes speakers are fearful that no one will be interested in their topic, so it goes a long way to make a point to get in touch early and convey your interest.

Know the Follow-Up Dance

I’m not surprising anyone by highlighting that following up is a huge component of making the conference worthwhile. Generally, a follow up email with 24 hours is expected. The best emails are short (no scrolling required) and highlight something specific and unique about your interaction. If you’re contacting a speaker you did not directly talk to, then mention something they said that grabbed your attention.

People tend to think they will remember everything just fine – all of the conversations you had, which college basketball team that nice person at lunch liked, the name of the next conferences the speaker will be attending, etc. But the truth is that remembering the details that make your follow-up meaningful is really hard!

One sure way to remember the details is to take thirty seconds to scribble some notes or keywords on the back of the person’s business card. This will help you create a personalized “Nice Meeting You!” email afterwards. In a scenario where someone does not have a business card to give you, use the back of your own card to get their details.

Also, don’t forget about touting your new-found knowledge to your organization! If your manager sent you to the conference, then this is especially important. Offer to write up something for the company or department newsletter. At the very least, create a quick “after-action” email to send to your manager. Include the names of people you met that could be meaningful connections for the organization overall.

Have Fun!

The best way to ensure you’re engaged and learning is to have fun! It’s not the SATs. It’s a chance to meet new people, hear new ideas, and share your own insights. Take the time to set your goals, plan your sessions, reach out to people in advance, and ensure meaningful follow-up. This will greatly increase your ability to make the most of your conference experience!

Try out these suggested conference tips at YNPN’s #NonprofitSTRONG Summit next month!

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