Each month ERSA’s PR partners Fivefold share their advice and practical tips on maximising your organisation’s communications. In the second of the series, Helen Wardle, Director of Fivefold, explains how to make the most of attending a conference.

Even the most well organised event with amazing guest speakers will give little benefit if you’re unprepared – research and planning are key to unlocking a conference’s full value. You’re investing time out of the office and expenses to attend, so making it worthwhile is important. So, how can you make the most out of your attendance?

Before the event

Choose your sessions: Consider your goals for going and check the agenda for the presentations and breakout groups you’d like to attend. Make sure you know where the sessions are being held and how much time you have between each one. Planning ahead will help to avoid the stress and rush of deciding on the day. It’s often worth researching the speakers too to find out if they’re likely to cover issues important to you.

Connect with other attendees and speakers: Contact the organisers for a delegate list, check out any sponsors, and start building relationships with some of them by connecting on LinkedIn or ERSA Forums – the chat function on ERSA Teams calls is a great place to make connections! Ask which sessions they’re going to and invite them to meet up for a coffee in between. Or get in touch with former colleagues and invite them to go with you. It’s a great excuse to re-connect.

Prepare to share: Pack a stack of business cards (even in this digital age, it’s handy to have something to give to a new connection) and ensure any professional profiles are up to date (LinkedIn, conference apps etc) – if you’re sharing social media content during the conference, or pointing people to your profile to connect, you need it to be current. Set your out of office email reply to advise people you’re at the conference, and for how long – it could well be that mutual connections are attending too.

During the event

Become a roving reporter: Take a laptop or notepad and pen and make notes ready to create shareable content. Also be sure to capture names, job titles and organisations of speakers or interesting people you’re seated with. Share your thoughts and insights through live Tweets or LinkedIn posts, and remember to use the event’s hashtag. Take a spare pen and ensure your gadgets are fully charged.

Network: Don’t just spend time with your known colleagues, reach out to other delegates and form new relationships. Be sure to check out any conference exhibition areas and speak to the people exhibiting. Speaking to new people can be daunting – start a conversation by asking what their company does, or what they thought of the last session.

Use a conference app if available to help schedule your day and connect with others. Also make sure your name badge or lanyard is clearly visible and positioned at a readable height.

Ask questions: Make your question relevant to others and you could reap benefits as attendees might approach you about it afterwards. Save any questions specific to just you or your organisation for the speaker after the session has finished.

Above all, enjoy yourself! But don’t make it too late a night if you’re staying over and there’s valuable sessions you want to attend the following day.

After the event

Create content: Whether you attended as a speaker or a delegate, following up with a blog on social media is a perfect way to maximise your investment into the conference. Act quickly – share your piece within a couple of days of the conference and remember to use the conference hashtags to reach your target audience.

Share with colleagues: Help the rest of your team and company to get value from the conference too. If you were the speaker, summarise your presentation; or if you were a delegate share your top three takings from each session you attended.

Most importantly, work with your colleagues to consider how to proactively use what you’ve learned and capitalise on who you’ve met.

Follow-up new connections: Reach out to your new connections within a few days of the conference. Email, connect on LinkedIn, or give them a call to cement the relationship further.

Engage with the organisers: Share what you felt worked, or perhaps didn’t. Consider whether you or your organisation could play a part in making the event even bigger and better next year.

If you’ve found this blog useful and would like a chat with PR professionals adept at working with employability and learning providers, visit www.fivefold.ltd or contact Helen Wardle on 07757 355339.