If you’re looking to gain new perspectives on emerging trends and challenges in your industry, taking a step outside the office might be the best place to start. Attending conferences is an engaging way to connect with other professionals but also an opportunity to learn about topics you may never have been exposed to otherwise. In order to maximize the experience, it’s critical to create a plan that leverages the limited amount of time for networking and minimizes potential burnout from information overload.
Tips for Attending Conferences
Most conferences have simultaneous speakers and networking events; it’s impossible to participate in every opportunity. Decide on a few small goals to organize and maximize your time spent at a conference:
- Identify the business value. Outlining business needs that could be met by attending the event can allow attendees to more clearly focus on one or two goals, whether that’s recruiting, learning a new skill or identifying potential business partners.
- Research the speakers. Learn more about the speakers, and you’ll likely be able to narrow down which panels and events would be the most beneficial to your business needs. And, if you run into them at a social event, you’ll have enough background information to make a casual conversation more meaningful.
- Network with other attendees. Even for introverts, conversations with other professionals can often be more valuable than the sessions themselves. Ask, “What was your favorite session so far?” Or, “Why did you choose this conference?” Bring your business cards to ensure those you met can find you later.
- Connect on social media. Post images and takeaways on Twitter using an event’s dedicated hashtag to find other attendees, and then connect on LinkedIn to stay in touch long-term.
- Schedule time to recharge. It’s important to acknowledge the physical and mental boundaries of continuing education, as overstimulation can cause fatigue. Reenergize with a quick break for food or exercise in between sessions. If you can, take a day off before returning to work.
- Share your findings. Make time to debrief with colleagues about what you’ve learned, or create a presentation that includes the most valuable or surprising findings. Decide whether to attend again, and take advantage of early registration discounts.
Conferences to Attend in 2019
No matter your level of experience, there is something for everyone to learn, especially at events that dive into niche topics and industries. While a traditional business conference may provide practical information and connections, attending events focused on health, education, media and culture can enable you to stretch the boundaries of their continuing education.
- South by Southwest, March 8-17, Austin, TX
At this annual event, professionals with any level of experience can choose from 25 different learning tracks—including music, health, politics, style, technology, sports, journalism and more.
- Women in Tech Summit — Mid-Atlantic, March 28-29, Washington, D.C.
A recurring series of workshops, expert panels and networking events, the Women in Tech Summit connects women working on the business and technical sides of the industry. Proceeds go to TechGirlz.org, a nonprofit with a mission to help middle school girls gain skills and experience with technology.
- Content Marketing Conference, April 16-19, Boston, MA
Attendees learn how to leverage comedy for engagement and performance metrics during sessions covering personalization, artificial intelligence, SEO and video production. The conference ends with a day dedicated to comedy-focused messaging.
- Milken Institute Global Conference, April 28-May 1, Beverly Hills, CA
The research-driven think tank will explore solutions to global challenges of equity for health, public policy, media, entertainment and philanthropy.
- Create & Cultivate, May 4, 2019, New York, NY
Women entrepreneurs in retail, beauty, marketing and tech will present at the event’s East Coast debut with curated workshops, mentor sessions and pop-up shops designed for female empowerment.
- Forbes Women’s Summit, June 17-18, New York, NY
Created for women, by women, this annual event features women leaders across generations in business, media, entertainment and politics.
- Aspen Ideas Festival, June 20-29, Aspen, CO
Presented by the Aspen Institute in partnership with The Atlantic magazine, the public conference gathers leaders from across the world to discuss the everyday challenges of modern life. Attendees can choose from program tracks focused on medicine, public health, climate change and economic progress.
- VidCon, July 10-13, Anaheim, CA
Now in its 10th anniversary, this summit allows content creators, industry experts and members of video-driven communities to gain insights into the future of multimedia production as a venue for content, advertising and creativity.
- Future Festival LA, July 15, Los Angeles, CA
Attendees of this recurring, compact version of the three-day Los Angeles Innovation Conference analyze major drivers of innovation in a variety of topics, including retail, entertainment, gamification and Generation Z.
- BeautyCon LA, Aug. 10-11, Los Angeles, CA
At this festival-like event, brand representatives, content creators and entrepreneurs discuss diversity and inclusion, innovation and the future of marketing in the beauty industry.
- Inbound Conference, Sept. 3-6, Boston, MA
Professionals in all sects of digital marketing, including social media, public relations, content creation, analytics and multimedia production, gather to hear celebrity keynotes on the power of storytelling. Attendees can choose from several specialized tracks to maximize time focused in different areas of expertise.
- The Atlantic Festival, Sept. 24-26, Washington, D.C.
Participants take in a combination of in-depth interviews, panelists and networking events to “illuminate new ideas” about global issues regarding technology, politics, business and the arts.
- Compliance Conference, Oct. 23-25, Nashville, TN
Hosted by the Center for Workplace Compliance, the members-only event boasts networking and speaker sessions featuring industry experts, attorneys and policy analysts to explore different perspectives in risk management, workplace compliance and challenges federal agency policy enforcement.
- Forbes Under 30 Summit, Oct. 27-30, Detroit, MI
Designed for professionals under the age of 30, the Summit is a forum for aspiring world leaders and entrepreneurs who have made the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, but others interested in attending can apply as well.
- Fast Company Innovation Festival, Dates TBD, New York, NY
Attendees can choose from 100 different “Fast Tracks” focused on innovation and creativity. The activities include speaker sessions, networking, parties and interactive product demos and are designed for professionals with varying levels of experience in the workforce.
- HR Virtual Summit, Dec. TBD, Virtual
Hosted by BambooHR and Glassdoor, this online conference seeks to bridge geographical divides between human resources professionals from across the globe to discuss HR values including diversity, inclusion, compliance and company culture in the modern workplace.
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Citation for this content: MBA@UNC, UNC Kenan-Flagler’s online MBA program.