You’ve bought your conference ticket. The plane is reserved and the hotel room is booked. You can already smell that airport food. Before you know it, you’ll be re-lacing your shoes on the other side of the TSA. But your heart sinks a little as you remember that one conference. Even now, the memory of that chaotic weekend getting lost in the city, missing your favorite speaker, and losing your laptop looms like it happened last week. You didn’t leave your family and your comfy pants to go through all that.
How can you be sure you will avoid a repeat of that experience? How can you make sure this conference will be your best one yet? What can you do, if you haven’t experienced that yet, to make sure that you never do?
You need a plan. You need a map.
Even the most seasoned adventurers map out where they are going. They have a picture of what the terrain looks like where they are going. They have a plan for how they will get from their car to the campground. And they know where they can take shelter if the weather suddenly shifts on the trail.
Every conference is a new adventure. You never know if the workshops are going to be close to the keynote, if the roundtable is going to overlap with lunch, or if there are going to be good food options within walking distance of the hotel. When you take time to map out the basics of your trip, you will be better prepared in case something happens you don’t expect. Making a plan helps you ensure that even if the Uber driver gets lost, you know where to pick up your day and move forward.
So here are a few ways you can map out your next conference to ensure that it doesn’t turn into a debacle worthy of Dateline.
Know the streets before you lose your feet
When I was a kid, I went on a youth group trip to go biking in the Rockies. One night, I got lost coming back from dinner. The group I was with had biked ahead of me, and I didn’t see where they had turned. Lost in a strange city, I approached a police officer in tears. I didn’t even know the name of the place we were staying.
Thankfully, as I was waiting in the police car, some of my group saw me and came to my rescue. It was the second time that trip I had fallen behind and ended up crying until someone found me. Yeah, I’m only slightly embarrassed to tell that story.
But it’s a great lesson on why you should map out your trip before you leave.
One of the things I love most about going to conferences is getting to explore a new place. I’ll lace up my shoes and hit the streets for a couple hours over lunch, just to see where I end up. But even before one foot hits the pavement, I take time to map out the area in order to gain some familiarity with the main streets around me.
Of course, I also have a smartphone in case I get really lost. And here are some great apps you can use to navigate a new city.
Any time you travel, you should spend some time learning the layout of the landscape. Even if you don’t plan to leave the hotel, it’s good to know what is around you in case you suddenly have to shop for new pants. Or what if you miss the continental breakfast and need some coffee and pastries?
Map out the sessions you want to see
When I go to a conference, I like to take some time to look at who is speaking, what workshops are being offered, and what sessions sound the most relevant to me. I don’t like spending money on travel, hotels, and conference tickets just to waffle around. And I hate missing sessions because I didn’t realize the next talk was on the other side of the hotel.
That doesn’t mean I won’t change my mind and skip a talk to grab an early lunch with someone I just met. But my plan gives me a foundation for my activity. It helps me define my purpose for being here, and helps my brain focus on what I really want to get out of my trip.
My plan may include taking in one morning session, then leaving the rest of the morning open to meet new people. I might choose to just wander around the city and take advantage of time away from work. Or if there is some kind of tech fair happening at the conference, I want to be able to check that out, too.
Either way, when I map out my conference, it helps me clarify what I want to get out of it so that I leave feeling enriched and energized.
If you’re planning to make time to meet new people at your next conference, read some of our tips for helping them remember you.
BONUS TIPS: Plan your personal and technology needs
Long days lead to low batteries.
This is true of your laptop and it’s true of your body. You want to map out when you can recharge your devices and yourself.
First, think about what technology you are bringing and what you’ll need to keep those devices going. Can you fit your laptop cord and your phone cord in the same bag? Can you charge your phone through your laptop to save outlet space? Should you bring a small extension cord in case the outlet is far away from your table?
You may be one of those people who take notes on your device. But you should always have a notebook and pen to back you up. You might even want to invest in a small handheld recorder just in case you lose the ability to type your notes. Besides, it will help you focus on the speaker’s message without worrying about whether you missed the best quote of the weekend.
Of course, be sure you’ve packed some extra batteries for this device as well.
Second, think about how you can keep your mind and body charged throughout a long day of sessions and talking. Can you fit some food bars or trail mix in your bag? What will you do if there is no coffee in the room? Did you remember the advice above to see where the nearest coffee shop is outside the hotel?
Don’t assume that food and drinks will always be available at the conference. It’s great when it is, or when a café is located inside the hotel. But this isn’t always the case. Do some research before you leave. Make plans on where you can recharge your personal batteries in order to stay energized.
More Conference Tips
Check out some of our other articles designed to help you have the best conference experience possible:
Thanks for reading,
Marketing Content Specialist
LTi Technology Solutions | ltisolutions.com
P.S. Do you have some favorite conference tips that you would like to share? Let us know some of the ways you prepare for great conference experiences in the comments below!