How to Get the Most from Your Conference Experience

May 15, 2018

By Bill Duggan


I was recently asked for advice on how to get the most out of attending an industry conference. At ANA, my team manages 30-plus conferences a year so I believe I have a qualified perspective. Here are my key suggestions.

  1. Conference organizers know that first impressions count and usually program the best content at the very start of an event. So get to the conference early and don't miss the start.
  2. Try to take away one key idea from every session. That way, at the end of the event you'll have six, eight, 10, or more key takeaways to consider.
  3. Write a short "report" about the conference. Share it with your boss and colleagues. It could include the key takeaways from the conference and other important facts — theme of event, number of attendees, etc. This is likely just a few pages but when you take the time to memorialize your experience in writing, you are more likely to remember the conference and take action going forward.
  4. Consider writing a blog or a LinkedIn post sharing your experience at the conference. Like this one.
  5. If attending the event with colleagues, divide and conquer. There is little reason to sit with colleagues during the general sessions or have meals with them at the event. You can do that back at your office. Rather, try to mix and sit with new people. (Exceptions being if you or colleagues are remote employees and don't have regular face time together.)
  6. Get out of your comfort zone. Attend the networking events. Make it a point to introduce yourself to some "strangers."
  7. Contribute to the social media conversation on Twitter or in the conference app if there is one. Post some pics.
  8. Understand in advance the meals that are being served, e.g., a full breakfast or just coffee. That way you can plan your day and avoid being distracted by hunger.
  9. I am not a big proponent of "getting away" from the venue during the event. After all, if you're in Orlando for a conference you shouldn't be visiting Disney World during the event. If that's important, consider going a day early to enjoy some local color.
  10. Think about whether you can be on stage next year rather than being in the audience and pitch the conference organizers with an idea. But that should never be a sales pitch about your organization and rather should be a session that provides insight and learning to attendees.

Thanks to the American Marketing Association for including my thoughts in its article on maximizing your next conference. Try these tips out at the ANA's next big event, our Digital & Social Media Conference, July 25–27 in California.


Bill Duggan is a group EVP at the ANA.

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