Edge Summit is all wrapped now and it’s officially that magical time of year we all know as conference season; when so many conferences are being hosted you have to decide which ones you really want to go to. Maybe you’re attending several, or maybe you’re attending just one. Regardless of how many you are attending, the same rules apply at all of them. Here are 5 do’s and don’ts to keep in mind at your next conference:
Take a lot of notes
- Come prepared with a pen and a journal. Be ready to write down anything and everything that you think is important. Even if you’ve heard it a million times before, or it’s been repeated several times during the conference; write it down. It’s being repeated for a reason! You might think you have the best memory in the world until the time comes to actually remember something important. Better to be safe than sorry!
Walk the floor
- Many conferences have an exhibition hall with vendors showcasing products or services. There might be a product or service there that you didn’t even know existed and won’t know about unless you explore. You don’t have to buy anything, but you never know what could be beneficial for your district!
Sit with new people
- If you attend a conference with other people from your district, make a plan to split up and sit with new people when you can. Attend different sessions when possible. It’s best not to repeat the same things you always do if you want to get the most out of any conference, and that includes hanging out with the same people and planning to do everything together. Change it up a little! This is your chance to learn from other professionals in your field and gain fresh ideas!
Bring plenty of business cards
- If you want any of those new people that you just met to be able to contact you later, leave your information with them! It leaves a good impression for you and sends a message that you’re open to communication once the conference is over. It’s also more efficient than writing your e-mail address on a napkin.
Tell the organizers if you really like something
- It’s one thing to attend a conference, it’s another thing to plan one. What many people don’t know is that once a conference ends those same organizers are already planning next year’s event. It takes several months of detailed planning and coordination to put a conference together organizers want nothing more than to ensure everyone enjoys the conference and walks away having gained something of value. So, if you like something, let them know! They will really appreciate the feedback and know what to repeat (or avoid) at future conferences.
Take too many samples
- Everyone loves SWAG, including me. I have SWAG from events I didn’t even attend! With that being said, free stuff should NOT be my main purpose at a conference. I’d rather keep my hands free for a firm handshake and my SWAG bag open for brochures, business cards, and anything else I might need along the way… but not three more water bottles. Your goal at any conference is to meet new people, and gain more knowledge; not walk away with a bunch of free goodies.
Miss out on networking opportunities
- Networking with new people can be very beneficial not only for you, but for your district as well. This goes back to my point about sitting with new people. Everyone attending the conference you’re at has something in common. These same people also have different timelines of experience and have learned different things along the way. Take this chance to hear their stories, exchange advice, and make new friends.
- In other words, don’t try to get work done while you’re in a presentation or during a breakout session. It’s not the time to reply back to all of those emails you need to get back to, or watch a cute cat video on Facebook. If you’re going to bring your computer, use it for the sole purpose of taking notes. If things like emails or even Buzzfeed might distract you, it’s probably best to put your computer (and phone!) away and listen so that you don’t miss out important information.
Miss keynote speeches
- Keynote speakers are typically influencers in their community or in the industry, and can offer you advice that you might not even know you needed. They are there because organizers believe that they have valuable insight for you.
Forget to follow up
- You did all of that networking and the conference is over, but that doesn’t mean you’re done building a relationship. If you exchanged those business cards with all the new people you just met, follow up with them and let them know you enjoyed meeting them. It’s one thing to casually meet someone along the way, but to gain value from a conference you have to build new relationships and this is the way to do it.
We’ll be at the listed conferences on the mentioned dates below over the next few months! Which ones will you be attending?
- CACFP Child Nutrition Conference April 23rd-25th, Chicago, IL
- ISNA Annual Spring Seminar April 26th Plainfield, IN
- Minnesota SNA 2019 SNIP Conference May 1st-3rd, Brainerd, MN
- Child Nutrition and Industry Summit 2019, May 5th-7th, Dana Point, CA
- 2019 ACDA Conference, May 5th-8th, Niagara Falls, NY
- SNA National Leadership Conference, May 9th-11th, Sarasota, FL
- Tennessee SNA, June 11th-13th, Gatlinburg, Tennessee
- 2019 CSNA Summer Conference June 10th-12th, Loveland, CO
- 2019 SNAI Annual Conference June 18th-19th, Dubuque, IA
- TASN Annual Conference, June 24th-25th, Grapevine, TX
- ILSNA Conference, June 25th-26th, Oakbrook Terrace, IL
- SNA ANC 2019 July 15th-16th, St. Louis, MO
- WA SNA 2019 Annual State Conference, July 29-31, Spokane, WA