by | Jun 27, 2017

Whether it’s for the networking, promoting your organization or for the learning, there’s no shortage of market research conferences to attend, big or small. Some people love them, some people would much rather be back in the office. But either way, chances are good that at some point in your MR career you’ll be attending an industry conference. How can you make the most of it, without losing your mind? As an industry veteran with many conferences under my belt, here are my tips:

Take the time to do some pre-conference work. Don’t show up to registration without an idea of what’s on the agenda, who you want to see speak, and who you want to meet. Even conferences that don’t share their attendee list will often list the agenda, speakers and the companies planning to be there. Take some time in the week before the conference to plan your time and reach out to your contacts at attending companies to try to set some meetings. If it’s just 5 minutes during a networking break to say hi to someone face to face, building a connection in person adds so much value.

Take notes – in a notebook, with a pen. But only the notes that are directly actionable to you in the context of what you are working on right now, or in the next 3-6 months. Don’t summarize all the speaker’s key points, don’t take notes in broad strokes. Only write down action items you can follow-up on, or implement immediately upon returning to the office. And put away the laptop/phone. You’ll inevitably get sucked in to email or some notification and you’ll miss all the good stuff you’re there to absorb.

Recharge: Make sure you build at least 1 personal break into your day. Whether that’s 15 minutes before the day begins to savor a cup of coffee and review the agenda, or 20 minutes in the middle to put your feet up and enjoy some silence (maybe a quick meditation). Taking a few minutes for some self-care will set up the rest of your day for a more focused and attentive span of learning. Here are some more ways to recharge in 15 minutes or less. (not all possible in the context of a conference, but some good ideas nonetheless).

Ask “How can I help?” You’ll inevitably hear from a speaker or run into a new contact who is working on something that you find interesting. Whether or not it’s directly applicable to the work you do, consider asking “how can I help?” This simple question is so engaging and allows you to give some of your time, knowledge or a referral to someone else in the industry without expecting anything in return. Give freely and you will reap the rewards.

Make an appointment in your calendar to spend some time reviewing your notes and action items (see point 2 above) within 2-3 days of returning to the office. Yes, your inbox will be jammed, you’ll have a thousand Slack messages to catch up on, and the office plants need watering. Don’t let all those takeaways, aha moments and new connections die in some notebook at the bottom of your swag bag. Taking the time to make use of the information post conference and sending those follow up notes will pay dividends on the ROI of your investment (both time and money) in attending the conference.

What are your best hacks for making the most out of conference attendance? Let us know in the notes below, I’m always looking for ways to get the most out of these shows.