Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to attend my very first out-of-state conference for work: FinCon. The FinCon community connects financial bloggers and influencers with major financial brands. As someone who doesn’t fit into either of those categories, I found myself a little overwhelmed when I arrived and feeling a little like a fish out of water. However, by the end of the conference, I had made new friends, learned a ton of valuable information for both my blog and my full-time job, and found myself ready to sign up for next year’s FinCon.
Attending this conference brought on a lot of valuable insights, many of which I wish I’d known before I arrived. For those of you who may be attending your first-ever conference (or maybe your tenth!), I wanted to share the survival guide I would have liked to have.
- Pack cough drops. It may sound silly, but between all of the handshakes and random chats between breakout sessions, your immune system and voice can easily start to go. My sore throat came on around Day 2, and fortunately, many of my fellow FinConners were fully stocked with cough drops and other immune essentials. I am a huge fan of the Zarbee’s Naturals brand and their honey cough soothers, which come with zinc and taste great. In addition, don’t forget to keep up your vitamin regimen!
- Download the conference app. If your conference has an app, this can be your best resource for up-to-date information on breakout sessions, speakers, informal meet-ups, and more. The FinCon app has a social networking capability where you can post pictures, ask questions, update your profile, and message other conference-goers. This was a great way to get to know other FinConners, especially as an introvert who didn’t know much about the finance blogger community.
- Attend the optional socials. FinCon hosted a pre-reception the night before the conference (complete with a donut wall!), along with a closing party on the final night. Attending these socials was a great way to get to know others attending the conference, build my network, and let a little loose.
- Bring snacks. Pack healthy, filling snacks like fruit and nut bars, bananas, protein powder, etc. If you have these snacks on hand, you’ll be less likely to dip out between sessions to buy an overpriced bag of chips from the hotel convenience store, and you’ll be able to stay more focused in sessions.
- Get organized. My inner-nerd likes to get into full-on school mode at professional development events and conferences, so I bring a backpack just for the occasion. I always have a folder on hand with print-outs of any documentation I might need (i.e. my hotel confirmation, receipts pertaining to the conference itself, an itinerary, etc.), along with a notebook and ample pens for note-taking. Some prefer an iPad or laptop, and that works great too. When I’m really ambitious, I’ll even bring a portable charger if I know I won’t be going back to my room for a while.
- Find your tribe. Chances are, you’ll meet other likeminded individuals who are as excited about the topic at hand as you are. Making friends will make the experience a whole lot more fun, and can bring on a lot more value in the long run. It’s easier than ever to follow up and keep in touch with new people, with social media at our fingertips. Take advantage of the time to build your network and say yes to lunches, coffees, and informal meetups with new people. Bring business cards if you have them!
What are some of your tips for making the most of conferences? Sound off in the comments section below!