17 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Conference Experience

Graduating from university is definitely not the end of your education. In fact, continuing education is a fact of life for all health care providers. We need it for state licenses and national certifications and boards. Of course, we also want to keep up with the changes in medicine and healthcare.

While many of us are thrilled to be around 5,000 plus of our friends and colleagues, for some it’s a bit overwhelming. And for some, it can be downright anxiety provoking.crowd

Inevitably, we leave something at home, forgot to confirm something, don’t have our business cards and the like.

And if you have ever arrived at a conference and found your room had been given away and there was nothing else to be had in town…well, it adds to the stress (and the flavor) of a large conference.

So whether you are attending your first conferences or your 20th, here are some tips that I have put together from past experiences of mine and several of my colleagues.

17 Tips

  1. Call ahead to confirm your reservations.
  2. Make reservations as soon as you can. If you are attending one of the larger conferences you’ll find that rooms fill up fast at the main hotels as well as the overflow hotels.
  3. Be prepared for variable weather conditions. Air conditioning can be a bit chilly for some.
  4. Drink lots of water. It’s usually hot in the host cities, not to mention the effects of flying and air conditioning on your hydration status.
  5. Delay in making shuttle bus reservations, it may be more cost-effective and have the least hassle factor to share a cab or Uber/Lyft once you get to the airport.
  6. Attempt to get a lay of the land prior to arrival. It might help reduce frustration. Google maps can be particularly helpful for this.
  7. Someone you’ve been wanting to meet? See if you can contact them ahead of time and set up some time for coffee or tea. Not possible? Then make sure you attending one of their sessions.
  8. Many conferences now have apps you can download to your phone. In addition to having your schedule at your fingertips, it can also have maps and additional information which will make your conferencing going easier.
  9. Carry food and snacks if possible to avoid some of the unhealthy choices in resorts. You’ll also save money and time by avoiding the long lines.people-431943_640
  10. Want to keep your feet happy? Those cute sandals will probably not serve you well at a larger conference when you’ll average 5+ miles per day. Consider a good pair of walking/running shoes.
  11. Make sure you carry chargers for phones, computers, and other portable devices.
  12. Bring business cards – they are great for networking with one another. If you don’t have one, it’s well worth the effort to have some made up. Check out places such as Vista Print for inexpensive but great cards. Leave one side blank for note taking. While I’m sure there are all sorts of electronic ways to exchange information, business cards are still the most universal…at least for now.
  13. Speaking of business cards, apps such as Evernote allow you to snap a photo of the business card. Others will create a contact in your phone. You may even want to snap their photo and their card to help jog your memory.
  14. Organize a meet-up to with colleagues. We all develop great relationships with our colleagues on social media. This is a great time to finally meet them in person.
  15. To lightening your load when you leave the conference, avoid (or at least be selective) all the product samples and promotional giveaways in the exhibit.
  16. Consider keeping a collapsible bag in your luggage just-in-case for travel keepsakes, exhibit hall giveaways, or that side shopping trip.
  17. Many larger conferences are held at family friendly locations. Consider bringing your family along for a bit of R&R before or after the conference.

Regardless if you are attending a smaller local conference or a large national conference, it involves you spending time, energy and money. You’ll want to make the most it.

Your Turn

Please share you conference experiences and any tips you have for other conference goers.

Comments 11

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  2. I’ve found the larger conferences are like the ‘running of the Bulls’. Be mindful of this & let people pass, watch out for your elders/handicapped attendees. There’s a seat for evryone.

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  5. I find it very important to remember that you don’t have to get CE for every available minute, take an hour to spend on yourself, but some of the most amazing CE can come from the posters, podium presentations, and 6 minutes presentations. So don’t forget to check out a few of these while you are at the AANP conference too.

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  7. Good advice. I agree on the sitting in on a talk by the person you wish to meet. Not only do you get to hear them speak on a valuable topic but it is also supportive to the speaker. A short meet and greet afterward may be possible. This will depend on others who also wish to speak with the speaker. I did the business cards as a new Nurse Practitioner. It was beneficial in helping my peers get to know me. My business cards had my picture on it and by the end of the convention, others were remembering me. Bring a lot of cards to hand out. My first convention I passed out over 300 cards. Now, I always run out of cards. I never can bring enough. Conventions are a great place to meet peers and I highly recommend them to new Nurse Practitioners.

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  9. Great article. Sometimes conferences are like “cattle calls” with lots of people and energy. Like you Barbara, I need to take breaks to recharge. That’s why I usually do stay in the conference hotel, though rooms are usally $$. It’s a business expense, and I can go upstairs for short breaks, freshen up, change shoes (yes, bring comfortable shoes!! and bandaids/moleskins to use PRN for blisters!) . Thanks for the great “reminder” article.

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    Taking breaks is essential. And the key to being able to stay in the hotel that houses the conference is to book immediately! This last conference was not, however, in a hotel, but a conference center that was surrounded by multiple hotels. Study maps carefully if that happens.

    Thanks for your comment Kristi and hopefully we’ll meet at an upcoming conference!

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