I recently attended the 2018 HR Florida State Conference. Since this was my fourth year in attendance, I felt like I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. However, a couple of my peers were attending for the first time. After offering suggestions to the first-timers, I thought to myself: I bet there are a ton of people out there that wish they knew how to make the best out of their own state conference experience, so I want to offer the following generalized tips in hopes that your conference experience is one you won’t forget.
- Have a plan! Use whatever resources your state conference team provides for planning. If there is an app, use it. If events and sessions are listed on their website, check it out. Make sure to research all sessions and speakers. Then pick two to three sessions for each time slot that you have interest in. Be prepared with a backup in case the room for your top choice is full.
- Stay on property or somewhere nearby. Stay on property so you can enjoy all activities that the conference offers from the amazing sessions to the late-night events. If your conference is not in a hotel, then stay somewhere close by and shuttle back and forth.
- Find peers that are state conference experts. Generally, the conference flow never really “changes.” There may be new sessions, events and parties, but the overall feel remains the same. Find a peer or colleague that has attended multiple times and hang with them. They can provide insights on best sessions and speakers and they may even know the “right people” that can enhance your conference experience.
- Network. I’ll keep this one short because it’s self-explanatory. You are at a conference full of attendees, volunteers, speakers, and vendors. Make as many purposeful connections as you can.
- Don’t forget to eat dinner and sleep. I know we all just love those boxed lunches, but they don’t last forever. Before going to those evening events, don’t forget to eat a good dinner. Also, enjoy the parties, but make sure you make time for a few hours of sleep. You wouldn’t want to have to leave a session early to go back to your room for a nap because you didn’t sleep the night before.
Whether you are a conference newbie or you’ve been attending for years, take time to enjoy everything your state conference has to offer. You will learn a lot, meet some great people, and become more valuable to your organization. I hope the tips above help you make the best out of your own state conference.