Before, During, and After: Maximize the Value of Attending IT Events
The typical IT convention or conference is a hive of tech activity, comprising keynote talks and presentations, practical training sessions, workshops, vendor demos and after-work get-togethers. These large events help IT professionals improve skills, stay abreast of emerging trends, expand professional networks and meet peers informally.
Many IT professionals consider attending conferences an essential part of career development. It is an opportunity for professional growth as well as relationship building. You can learn about the latest innovations and concepts, keep up to date with new technologies and trends, and enhance your IT skills.
That's without even mentioning what is perhaps the most important aspect of IT conferences and conventions: people. Even for those who don't consider themselves outgoing, this is a fantastic opportunity to connect with other professionals in the industry, as well as seek out new customers and business associates.
Don't just throw some clothes in a suitcase and hop on a plane. The more time that you take to prepare before attending a conference or convention, the better off you will be once you've arrived. Let's discuss some important steps to take before you leave town to attend your next IT event.
Choose the Right Convention —Tech pros typically either attend conventions selected by their employers or choose one on their own. If the choice is yours, then make sure you find out about all the relevant conferences in your city or other accessible locations. Pick a reputable event in your field of specialization, within your budget.
Do Your Research — Once you've chosen an appropriate convention, start planning for the event by reviewing the schedule and talking to friends and colleagues who attended last year.
If you intend on experiencing every event taking place at a large conference, then you're likely to be overwhelmed. Given the slew of speeches, workshops and expos organized at sizeable conventions, it is not realistic to expect to see, hear and participate in everything. Nor should you wait until you enter the conference venue to decide what you are going to do.
Conference organizers normally put out programs and schedules of demos weeks prior to the event. To get the most out of your conference, get information about scheduled activities. Go through the agenda in detail, read the outlines of each keynote session, research speakers and topics and look at what vendors will be offering.
Ask yourself which technologies and solutions could be valuable for your business. This will help you determine which sessions, workshops, and vendor demos to attend. You will arrive at the conference knowing what you want to see and do, as well as where to start. In this way, you don't waste time or grapple with information overload.
Prepare Yourself — People attend conferences to learn. You will be consuming a good deal of valuable information during the conference. It would be a shame to find you haven't been able to retain all of this knowledge when you are back at the office, which could happen if you don't take notes. For most of us, it's quite impossible to remember everything.
This is why you need to have your laptop, tablet, or scribble pad so that you can jot down all the insights, information, and tips you pick up at keynote speeches, presentations, training sessions and vendor demos. Remember to carry a reliable power pack, as well, and look for information about where you can charge your device.
Tech conventions normally occupy a lot of space, sometimes at a huge convention center or high-rise hotel, or spread over several blocks of a city. Whatever the venue, you'll probably need to cover a large area on foot. Fortunately, these events are most often informal, so you can wear comfortable walking shoes. Look through pictures of prior conference to get a sense of standard attire.
Arrange Meetings Prior to the Event — Decide whom you would like to meet individually. A one-on-one meeting with an expert in your field can be an effective learning experience. Normally, one doesn't have time for more than one or two individual conversations at an event. Contact the person/persons you want to meet with well before the convention in order to set up an informal discussion.
Minimize Distractions — You learn best when you are focused. And it's hard to focus when your mind keeps going back to the workplace, wondering whether everything is functioning smoothly in your absence.
Before departing, ensure you have a dependable colleague to handle your work while you are away. Then you can devote yourself totally to learning, thereby getting the most out of your or your employer's investment (or your own).
On the Scene
Event organizers have their own agendas and demands. It's up to your to ensure that you experience at a conference or convention is the best it can be. Here are a few things you can while in attendance to get the most out of your investment of time and resources:
Pay Attention — Avoid looking at your phone during a talk or presentation so that you don't miss out on anything. Remember that active listeners retain information better. Listen, take notes, and review what you've learned when you get back to your hotel. Connect with the speaker on social media and share your thoughts on the topic.
Be Open to Different Disciplines and Approaches — Meeting people from different tracks can be educational and set you thinking outside your familiar zone. Also, be open to different perspectives and ideas. This can help you view your work in a new light and develop a fresh approach.
Get Contact Information — Remember to save contact details of everyone you meet. A good way to do this is to connect with them on LinkedIn or Twitter soon after you meet. Plan to also share phone numbers and e-mail information.
Socialize — One of the reasons people take time out to attend conventions is to connect with others in the industry to share knowledge, look for a more exciting job, meet new clients, and fraternize with vendors or unwind in the company of peers. Attendees are ready and willing to discuss a range of work-related concerns.
Most conferences include a few informal gatherings in the evenings, giving attendees ample opportunity to mingle and develop new relationships. Even though you may find yourself tired at the end of a day full of information-rich sessions and extensive walking, it's certainly worthwhile to attend a few after-hours events.
Also, don't hesitate to talk to others who are attending whatever keynote or workshop you wind up seated for. You not only learn from one another but also get to know more people. For many tech pros, meeting individuals from different organizations and countries is one of the highlights of a conference.
Return with Honor
As important as it is to go into any convention or conference with a sound and thorough plan of attack, you should also be prepared to carry forward the good outcomes of attendance. Here are two quick tips to bear in mind once you've returned.
Share Knowledge — Share what you learned with your colleagues so that they can use this knowledge to improve work outcomes. As you put into practice new approaches and adopt new solutions in your own work, keep coworkers and manager up to date about positive and productive changes.
Keep in Touch with New Contacts — It's up to you to make sure that your new contacts don't forget you. Remember to converse with them every now and then to strengthen ties as well as share relevant information.