In her April 5 webcast, “Network Like a Rock Star and Increase Your Conference ROI,” Wendy Terwelp, CEO of Opportunity Knocks of Wisconsin, presented valuable tips about how to have a fulfilling conference experience. Her advice was designed to help individuals make the most of their time, as well as learn you how to sell their supervisor on the value of their attendance at the conference.
One of the early tips Terwelp shared for maximizing your experience was to understand your purpose for attending. What is your personal reason for attending? Is it about professional development, business development, or content or to get job leads or new clients? Are you looking to bring back best practices to the rest of your team or gain insights into products that could be the perfect fit for your organization?
Asking yourself that question sets the stage and enables you to establish goals for the conference that will determine all your activities. Perhaps you want to connect with vendors or take the first step toward establishing strategic partnerships. Maybe you’re a speaker who is striving to get leads on new speaking opportunities.
Terwelp advises looking at your conference planning through three lenses: people, sessions, and social media. If you want to expand your professional learning network, your goals could be to meet three new people each day, attend an after-sessions dinner, or sit at a table with people you don’t know twice a day.
If you have a specific session topic in mind that you want to learn more about, Terwelp recommends going to those sessions early, because many sessions fill up quickly. Have a Plan B and Plan C, where Plan B may be the same topic but a different speaker and angle; Plan C could be a second-tier topic of interest.
Connect with other L&D professionals ahead of the conference through social media or interact with speakers. By posting compelling recaps of sessions or of the conference as a whole, you can raise your brand. Speakers can share a bite-size teasers of their upcoming sessions, while vendors can post tips on using the tools they have available for talent development professionals.
Terwelp, who previously served on the ATD Program Advisory Committee, explains that individuals who serve as committee members are committed to providing an exceptional experience for conference members, using their deep expertise on current trends and best practices and carefully vetting proposals and the L&D professionals who submit them. By following these tips, you can ensure a fruitful conference experience.