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Personal Growth: Eight ways to make the most of the next conference you attend

ASSOCIATIONS NOW, July 2007 Intelligence

By: David Coleman


Whether you’re a full-time meeting planner or just supporting your association’s meetings as a member of the staff, you can be fairly burned out on conferences by the time you attend one for your own professional development. But don’t let burnout stand in the way of success. Take advantage of these simple strategies to get the most from the next conference you attend.

Say yes to networking. Smile and appear interested, interesting, and approachable. Shake hands like you mean it (firm, with a smile and direct eye contact). Say hello and state your name and where you are from whenever you meet someone new. Ask questions and share information.

Be a fat penguin. Fat penguins break the ice! If two people are going to meet and communicate, one of them has to break the ice and say hello. It is all about attitude, not appearance.

Respect speakers when they have the podium. Refrain from multitasking right in front of them. Turn off your computer and cell phone, take a break from communicating, and give them the respect they deserve.

Be picky. Conferences are too short to sit through a session or listen to a speaker who is not beneficial to you. If you quickly ascertain that a topic or presenter is not meeting your needs, quietly excuse yourself and attend another session. For this reason, always identify two or three programs of interest to you during any scheduled presentation block and sit toward the back of the room. If you see that a session is going to be outstanding, you can always move closer to the speaker.

Get some sleep. Be as alert and rested as possible.

Take advantage of expo opportunities. Visit every booth in the exhibit area and meet everyone that you can—even if it appears that they would not be beneficial to you in your current role.

Be a human sponge. Take in as much as you can for as long as you can.

Don’t fear the speaker. Approach and communicate with the conference presenters and dignitaries, even those who are well respected or have a star quality about them. They are human and put their clothes on the same way that you do.

David Coleman, a speaker and writer, is the author of Making Relationships Matter. Email:

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