Getting the Most Out of Your Conference Experience

Getting the Most Out of Your Conference Experience
Posted on 03/05/2018
CivicLive Blog - Getting the Most Out of Your Conference Experience

Conferences are big business. So much so, there are too many to count, with new ones popping up every year. There is, however, a reason for their popularity as conferences provide attendees the opportunity to engage on an intimate level with their industry contemporaries, as well as with the vendors and experts who display their wares and knowledge at booths or in presentations and seminars.

Why Take Part In A Conference?

Live events are a great way to target the variety of goals you most likely have as a local government professional, such as increasing industry engagement, education and skill development and more. Tradeshows and conferences are events that focus on specific industries, bringing experts (the “movers and shakers”), as well as the businesses that tend to your industry’s needs together in one space — and making it easier for you to access information and new ideas in one space.

You'll want to get the most out of your conference experience and with a little preparation, it's an easy feat to accomplish.

Know What You're Looking For

The overwhelming number of high quality industry events out there might be a bit of a turn off, which is why it’s important to have an idea of what kind of conference will benefit you, your team and ultimately your municipality. There are a few simple steps to take to help you choose the best events for your needs:

  1. Do your research. There are a lot of conferences out there, take the time to read up on them, their focus and their goals. Do they align with your own? If not, nix it and move on to the next.
  2. Look at the event agenda. Are the sessions and seminars provided of interest? Do they have the potential to answer questions and educate your staff?
  3. Don't forget cost. You want the most bang for your buck. When you evaluate all that the conference is offering, do you feel it's worth the money? If not, it's not the right event for you.

Prep for Your Conference

Once you’ve worked out which events you or your team members will be attending, you’ll want to prepare for the conference, to ensure you get the most out of it. Just as you prepped when choosing which event(s) to attend, you’ll want to spend some time planning an event itinerary.

Any conference you attend will have an agenda that informs you of all the happenings. Be sure to read the agenda, take note of who the keynote speakers are and what their talks will focus on. Also, look at the sessions/seminars; you won’t be able to attend all of them, as many will run concurrently. Take the time to evaluate the potential of each one to help you determine which will be most beneficial to your current goals.

What Can You Do at a Live Event?

The real question here should be what can’t you do? Every conference or tradeshow will be different and unique in their own way. However almost every conference gives you the opportunity to:

1. Get an Education

Whether you’ve been working in local government for six months or 16 years, you can never know enough. Regardless of what industry you work in within government, staying relevant is vital to ensuring continued success, particularly when it comes to meeting your constituents needs. Knowing the newest and best ways to implement strategy or adhere to changing rules and regulations is necessary for every government professional, whether your focus is marketing, I.T. or administrative.

When you attend a conference, you have the opportunity to take part in a variety of sessions, seminars and presentations that relate to various elements of your industry. Sessions can include talks presented by leading industry experts, hands-on educational classes, and product demonstrations.

The educational benefits of sending employees to conferences don’t stop when the conference is over. When you or your staff return from a conference, they can share what they’ve learned with the rest of your department. This is a great way for every member of your staff to benefit from a conference; as well, it provides a great opportunity for team members to work on their own presentation skills.

2. Window Shop (and Get Free Swag!)

Stop by the various vendor booths and speak directly to the companies that create products and services specific to local government.

Assuming you’ve looked at the event agenda ahead of time, you might have a list of vendors you’d like to learn more about. A great thing about checking out vendor booths is that company experts operate them. Ddon’t hesitate to ask as many questions as you like. Conferences create space for vendors to give you the opportunity to discover and learn about products and resources that fit your needs. Along with the ability to speak directly to a company, conference booths are usually equipped with take-home information (brochures, USBs, business cards, etc.) The most successful booths pull you in by offering free swag — pens, hats, sunglasses, “enter to win” contests and more.

Learn, engage and walk-away with free stuff!

3. Take Your Engagement to the Next Level

Conferences are a great place to mix and mingle with industry experts, vendors and existing partners. They’re also a great way to generate new contacts, including within your industry. While there are many conferences local to particular areas, there are also national and international conferences that bring in people from all over. Networking is a great way to learn and share new ideas.

4. Support Professional Development

Having your staff attend conferences supports their professional development. Keeping your staff knowledgeable and informed leads to new, creative and innovative ideas and opportunities to engage with your residents, building a stronger, happier municipality.

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