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How to Make the Most out of Conferences

Jessica Walker Jessica Walker

Conferences are a great way to learn about new trends in the field and refresh your knowledge and skills. They’re also great places to make new contacts and to continue building relationships.

Although the digital world is shrinking, there’s still something to be said for the face to face meeting. That is the power of a conference. Nothing else brings large groups of similarly motivated people together with the sole purpose of learning, meeting, and talking. So, how do you leverage a conference?

Plan ahead

Lots of conferences post an attendee list before the big day(s). Review it and choose a few people to meet – both for new and established relationships.

Reach out to people a few weeks before the event. Let them know you are interested in meeting – grabbing a coffee is a great way to use a small window of time.

Prep before

Bring materials – like a well-designed infographic showing recent accomplishments or photos from a new program. Make sure the materials will actually interest the people you’re meeting. Also, remember that most people travel to the conference – no one wants a heavy brochure in their luggage when they could carry souvenirs.

And, make sure to brush up on any existing history with the people you’re going to meet. You want to be aware of any big issues to avoid or new developments to cheer about.

Confirm the meeting

Make sure you confirm times and places! Some conference centers are GIGANTIC and you don’t want to waste precious relationship-building time figuring out if you’re on the correct floor.


Once you connect, smile and put yourself out there. Remember – ask questions! You might want to self-promote, but people will feel more connected if you ask about them.

Follow up

After the conference, make sure you drop a note to the people you met to thank them for the chat and create a solid memory of who you are and what you talked about. Provide any materials you discussed and follow up on any questions they had.

When used effectively, the 15 minute breaks between sessions at conferences can help you gain new contacts and strengthen existing relationships.

What do you do to use conference time wisely?

Jessica Walker is development coordinator for GuideStar. This is the forth post in our monthly Development Corner series. Click here and here for more Development Corner blog posts.

Topics: Events