■ What sessions at the conference do I want to attend?
Familiarize yourself with the conference. Go online and read as much as you can about the conference to set up a list of sessions you want to attend. Look at last year’s conference information and find out who returns each year as speakers.
During the conference
Go to as many sessions as you can. You’ll learn a great deal from them. Also, arrive early to those sessions you plan to attend. Nothing is more frustrating than to arrive late or just at the time a session starts and not find a seat.
Make contacts. One very important rule for conferences is to never eat alone. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are the best times you have to make contacts. Also, take advantage of networking opportunities when you can. You’ll have a great time and have the chance to talk to all those people you otherwise wouldn’t have had the time to meet.
Take notes. Always carry a pen and paper and take as many notes as you can. You don’t have to rewrite everything the speaker says or copy all the slides. Just try to keep up with the general idea and ask questions. Most good conferences also give you session notes in electronic form. So print them out and take them with you.
Find the right balance. When you attend conference parties, keep in mind that potential employers or clients might be there. You’re not really off the hook because you’re out of town. Enjoy the occasion, while balancing partying and learning.
After the conference
Book time to digest. After the conference is over, take the opportunity to really make use of your time away. Spend some time going over your notes and materials while ideas still are fresh in your mind.