My Top Tips for Attending a Professional Conference

Happy Wednesday, friends!

This week is my last week of budget deadlines (fingers crossed) and I am gearing up to attend a professional conference Monday through Wednesday of next week.

Conferences are a great opportunity to change your professional scenery, network with colleagues in your same profession and learn your industry's latest and greatest.

I have attended a week-long conference twice before, but I have never attended a shorter 2-3 day conference.

I anticipate it will be a whirlwind trip not only due to the duration, but also because I have the privilege to be speaking on a panel at this conference! I'm nervous, but super excited!

Today, I'm sharing my top tips for attending a professional conference and having a successful trip. Whether this is your first conference or your annual trip, I hope these tips prove helpful.

Photo by Teemu Paananen on Unsplash

My Top Tips for Attending a Professional Conference

  • Research what type of conference you hope to attend. Are you a member of a professional organization? Most professional associations have an annual meeting or conference. 
    • For example, American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) and Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) are a few healthcare administration-focused organizations.
  • Ask yourself what you hope to get out of your conference experience. Do you want to learn about industry trends? Network with professionals in your field? Learn about another sub-sector of your industry? Learn about best practices for a software or technology you work with daily? 
    • There are conferences, networking events and meetings that meet all of these needs. The event I'm attending is a user conference for the healthcare technology that I work with often in my role.
    • My goal is to learn about upcoming trends, network and share best practices with peers and learn how my organization can better utilize healthcare technology.
  • Want to go to a conference, but you don't have any money in the budget to attend? Create an SBAR or memo with why you want to attend, what you hope to learn and bring back to your organization, how you will apply it to your job and the complete cost breakdown. Present this to your boss and be willing to be flexible about making affordable travel plans.
    • For example, I applied to be a panel speaker so the conference fee would be waived and I am flying in the morning of the conference to save one night of hotel costs!
  • If your company can't swing a full week or several day conference this year, don't be discouraged! Most professional organizations have local chapters with more affordable events and speaker series that you may be able to attend instead.
  • If and when your conference travel is approved, you need to plan ahead to make the most of your trip. 
    • Print resumes (on resume paper), have ample business cards at the ready, bring a portfolio with a notepad for taking session notes, and bring anything you need (mints, tissues, etc.) to put your best foot forward with your professional network! 
  • Pack wardrobe pieces that can transition from daytime sessions to an evening drink with co-workers or dinner with colleagues. Pack blouses or shirts that can work for both settings when you ditch the blazer in your hotel room!
  • Travel in some kind of professional wear. This isn't my favorite tip since I love traveling in a comfy sweatshirt and jeans. This tip is important if you are staying at the conference hotel--you wouldn't want to run into a respected leader in your field with a messy bun and hoodie!
  • Get out of your comfort zone! It is definitely easier to stick with people from your organization or order room service for dinner, but a conference is a chance to learn from and make connections with peers in your field. Most conferences have lunch and learn events, speed networking and dinner opportunities. Drink another cup of coffee and get out there!
  • Lastly, a super hot shower or a blow dryer does wonders on that wrinkled dress shirt and the hotel front-desk probably can provide anything you forgot at home. You can't plan for everything, but try not to sweat the small stuff! Everyone attends a conference to connect with others, learn and have fun. Enjoy it!
That's it for tonight! 

I'll be following these tips as I get ready to leave for my conference! Next week on H&H, I'll be sharing what I pack in my carry on luggage.

Until next time 👠


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