Conference Attendee Tips & Tricks: How To Get The Most Out of a Conference

Going to a conference? These four tips and tricks will help you maximize your time and make the most of the opportunity.

how to get the most out of a conference

Conferences are a great opportunity to build your professional network and stay current in your field. They’re also a significant commitment of time and financial resources once you factor in travel, tickets, meals, and hotel rooms. 


If you’re attending a conference in the coming year, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck. Likewise, if you’re sending your team to a conference, you want to make sure your investment in your staff pays off. 


Follow these four tips to help you get the most out of your next conference. 

1. Strategically plan your day

If you want to get the most out of conference sessions, it helps to have a strategy before you arrive. Rather than just showing up on the day of the conference and attending whichever sessions grab your attention, it’s a good idea to have a game plan in advance. 


Start by thinking about what you want to get out of the conference. Would you like to learn about best practices for staffing? Are you looking to connect with software vendors and learn about what systems are out there? Then, take a look at the agenda and decide which sessions you want to attend and which booths you want to hit based on your goals.  


Most conferences post their agenda in advance so you can plan your schedule before you leave home. Ever wish you could attend multiple sessions at once? If you’re attending the event with coworkers, make some time beforehand to map out your conference strategy together. Then you can spread out so you’re not all attending the same session. When the conference is over, you can each share your top takeaways with the rest of the team, and have a much better view of the conference overall.  

2. Attend happy hours and networking events

We’ve all been there: After a long day of attending sessions and browsing exhibits, you just want to go back to your hotel room, put on your pajamas, and crawl into bed.  


While we know conferences can be exhausting — especially when they’re multi-day events — it’s worth summoning some energy and heading out to an after-hours event. Happy hour meetups and dinners are a great opportunity to network in a more relaxed, informal setting. Plus, they’re a lot of fun!  


You can usually find out about these types of events in advance by contacting your conference organizer. Or, if it’s a larger conference, there’s most likely a conference hashtag you can follow on social media to get updates on networking events taking place.   


One caveat: If you do attend events or parties, don’t just spend time with the coworkers you see every day. You’ll get a lot more value if you make an effort to talk to people outside of your organization, and you might even meet a few partners or peer organizations.  

3. Grab more than just swag

Exhibitors share a lot of valuable material at conferences besides just swag like candy and pens. But with so much to see and do, you might not have time to process all this information at the event. A good reason to collect brochures, flyers, and other materials is so you can look back on this information after the conference.  


Of course, a tote bag stuffed with business cards and brochures won’t do you much good if you can’t remember why you grabbed it in the first place. One helpful tip is to jot a note on the materials when you pick them up to help you remember what you discussed. (Go ahead and use the free pen!) Then you can slip them into a folder or binder to keep them organized for when you revisit after the conference.  

4. Stay connected after the conference on social media

As we mentioned before, many conferences have hashtags to use on social media, and even conference apps where you can share photos, select breakout sessions, keep tabs on speaking lineup changes, and find out about networking events and parties. Connecting with the conference on social media can also be useful for staying connected to other attendees after the event. You’ll also be the first to know when the next conference dates are announced.  


In addition to monitoring the conference on social media and the conference app, take some time to send LinkedIn requests to anyone you connected with during the conference. You can also follow the social media accounts of vendors and presenters who are of interest to you. Then  the learning doesn’t end when you leave the conference!  

Keep learning

If you want to get the most out of a conference, it requires so much more than just showing up. Having a conference strategy in advance, attending after-hours networking events, picking up informational materials, and staying connected on social media after the event will help you maximize your conference investment.  

Looking for ideas of events to attend this year? Check out our list of upcoming disability service conferences.

Free Resource: 40+ Disability Service Conferences For 2023
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