Getting the Most Out of Your Next Conference

I’m officially back from THAT Conference in Austin and also officially exhausted, in a good way. Huge shoutout to everyone who attended my talk and the people I had the chance to connect with. There’s truly nothing quite like that conference energy. Since it’s top of mind at the moment, I though I’d spend today talking about what you can do to get the most of your next tech conference experience. Because, as you probably know, the whole thing can be pretty overwhelming if you don’t prep.

If you need more deets from my time at THAT Conference, watch the full recap here.

The biggest theme from the conference this year is one that I think will resonate with so many people. And it’s about being fearless. So often we’re the biggest thing holding ourselves back. So when it comes time to learn a new framework, or change jobs, or start something new we let our hesitancy get in the way of opportunity. I’ll admit it— it was fear that led me to not leave my last job years sooner than I actually did. It was fear that made me slow to start a career change or even how I viewed what I do now. But making the conscious decision to not leave your life full of what ifs is almost always one of the simplest and most impactful changes we can make for ourselves.

Moving on to a little lighter subject— how are you actively prepping for your next conference? Those things aren’t cheap, so you want to make sure you’re getting the most out of the experience. Here’s my advice. Pop on over to the conference page and connect with all the speakers on LinkedIn. Add in a personal note while you’re there. It’s as simple as saying something like, “I’m so excited to attend this year’s Rat Convention, and I saw that you were a speaker. What are your thoughts on the Chicago Rat Hole? Is this finally some good press for rats?” adjust accordingly to fit their topic Then start posting that you’re going to whatever city and asking who wants to meet for coffee, a beer, or a walk around the block while you’re there.

Since you’re starting to make plans with people it’s incredibly important for you to schedule out your days. Kudos to you if you can go to every talk AND every happy hour. But, be realistic. What talk subjects are the most interesting to you but also what speakers do you want to hear from most? This takes a little research, but it’s well worth it to not have to stress day of. Don’t forget to factor in time to just decompress for a bit. Whether that’s visiting a local attraction or having some TikTok time in your hotel room— you have to take a little time for yourself.

So you’ve made it to the talks, now what? Leave the pen and paper in your bag, and consider live tweeting your favorite talking points instead and tagging the speaker. As a speaker, we love when someone takes time to create content like this for us at conferences. Then at the end of the day, throw up a LinkedIn post with a few sentences about the day with a pic and tag those speakers you’ve already connected with.

There’s no better place to network than at a conference. It’s also one of the places that can be most intimidating. Here’s something easy to start with— connect with the speaker at the end of their talk. You already have an obvious subject to talk about, now all you have to do is ask them a relevant question. Boom. There’s one hand officially shook. And for everyone else you meet and connect with on LinkedIn while you’re there— your connections should be in chronological order. So when you get home and finally get some rest (speaking directly at my self here) go back, look at that list, and send those people a DM. It will feel a little off at first, but don’t forget to be fearless.