Getting the Most out of Professional Conferences

With the annual NAE4-HA Conference being held in the Southern Region this year, we logowebhave a large number of attendees from our state, many of whom are first timers to this meeting and to professional conferences in general.  For those of you who are first timers, this week’s post is dedicated to you!

Conference Attendance Suggestions

Before the Conference

  • Do your homework! Check out all the resources available on the NAE4-HA website before you attend. Download apps and check out the related sites on Social Media.
  • Build a plan. Go through the proceedings in advance and mark which sessions you would like to attend. Some sessions will fill up faster than others, so be sure to select a few options for each time slot and prioritize.
  • Declare a major and a minor. (Full disclosure- I stole this idea from others). What are your two biggest professional needs which will make the largest impact on you as a professional, and/or your total 4-H program. Focus your “course schedule” around related topics and make a plan for how you are going to share what you have learned back home.
  • Add in a session completely outside of your comfort zone. Stretch yourself and take something completely foreign to you.

During the Conference

  • Attend the first timers’ orientation on the first day of the conference!
  • Bring plenty of business cards. Share these freely, but don’t expect to collect a ton, rather focus on collecting the ones that really expect to follow up with and then do so. When you collect a business card jot down why you want to follow up with this person (you won’t remember otherwise). Also there are a ton of giveaways in the exhibit hall, you’ll want your business card to try for a chance to win.
  • Are there more great sessions than you have time to attend? Divide and conquer with some of your colleagues and then make a plan to share resources later.
  • Take notes, but don’t overwhelm yourself with trying to remember everything. Rather, focus on jotting down three take-aways from each session, speaker, etc.
  • Join a committee/taskforce and attend the meeting(s) during the conference. Not only is this a great way to deepen your knowledge in an area, it’s a fantastic way to meet like-minded individuals to collaborate with (and potentially offer letters of support for your PSP Packet!). Find more information on committees and taskforces at: http://www.nae4ha.com/committees-task-forces
  • Work in some time to attend poster sessions when they are manned. Another great opportunity to meet others and network.
  • Frequent any mobile apps and social media that the conference is using. Oftentimes you will find great tips and updates you wouldn’t hear otherwise.

 

After the Conference

  • Missed a session you were really interested in? It’s ok to follow up with presenters after the fact, and ask for a copy of their handouts.
  • Reflect on your notes, create a plan of action, and follow through on that plan.
  • SHARE what you have learned! Share with your volunteers, share with your colleagues, write a blog post for this blot, etc.
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