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Staying “On Top of It” During a Conference

Posted April 16, 2013 by Marcy Twete in Life After Five

Attending a conference can be a phenomenally important experience in your career. Whether you’re learning new skills to use each day at your desk or networking with important people in your field, whether it’s a single day event or a multiple day conference, you’re going to have the opportunity at a good professional conference to create new relationships and build new skills. Sounds great, right? No downside? Wrong. The inevitable downside of attending a conference is the time it takes away from the work and the projects that need your attention in the office.

And while we can all agree a professional conference or event is key to your success, is it even possible to do so without adding stress to your job? Yes!

Here’s how you can stay productive and on top of your work even while attending a multi-day conference.

  • If you’re going to skip something, skip breakfast. There are always those people at a conference who never network or talk to others between sessions because they’re checking their email or making calls back to the office. These people are not getting the most of their time or their money. If you must skip some networking time, skip breakfast. Most people will eat with those they already know when they have the opportunity to choose seats. Couple that with the fact that most people are still tired means it’s the time of day you’re least likely to make good connections.
  • Set an out of office reply. Oddly, we feel comfortable setting an out of office reply when we’re on personal vacation or take a sick day, but we have the strange notion that when we’re at a “work event,” we should still be at work. Wrong! Let people know you’re out of the office and set expectations of your response realistically.
  • Take time to brainstorm with other attendees. Chances are, you’re working on at least one project at work that has you stumped. Maybe you can’t figure out your marketing pitch on a product, perhaps you aren’t sure which great candidate you interviewed last week to hire this week. Instead of talking to the person sitting next to you at lunch about the weather, ask for their input. Brainstorming with new acquaintances can be incredibly powerful. They have no stake in your decision making and can be objective in a way you cannot. Suddenly, you may find that while you’re networking, you’re also moving the strategic needle forward at the office.
  • Focus on “clearing” email, not checking email. I get it, ladies, you’re all going to check your email on your phone at the conference. That’s entirely fine. But instead of focusing on checking your email, just focus on deleting. It’s a lot easier to get through 20 substantive emails that need your eyes when you return than 120 where 100 of them don’t need your attention. When you check your email, focus on discarding and deleting rather than responding.

Don’t avoid a conference because of the work you have in the office. Your career and your skills and network development are just as important as the stack of papers on your desk. Limit stress from the conference, but don’t skip it all together.

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."