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Guide to Getting the Most Out of Your Next Conference

guide to next conference

For many businessmen and women, attending meetings out of town is simply part of the job. No matter what industry you are in, there is typically at least one conference you can attend in any given year.

While conferences are a great place for employees to network, share news about their companies, learn new things and interact with clients and prospects, some employers view travel as an unnecessary business expense. For businesses that try to trim their operating expenses by eliminating travel to events such as industry conferences, the resulting costs can be severe. On average, a company that reduces travel loses 17 percent of its profit in the first year. Unfortunately, these losses are not limited to the first year. It takes a typical business three years to recover the revenue it forfeited by eliminating travel.

travel loss percent

The Economic Significance of Meetings to the U.S. Economy,” prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2014, compared data about meetings held in the United States in 2012 to data collected in 2009. The comparison revealed that companies are spending more on meetings and more people are attending business meetings than before. According to the study, nearly 225 million individuals attended meetings in 2012, a 10 percent increase over the about 205 million people who participated in meetings three years earlier.

attendee meetings

During 2012, 1.83 million meetings took place in the United States. Here is a breakdown of the types and number of meetings that occurred during that calendar year:

Corporate or Business Meetings: 1,300,000

Conventions, Conferences or Congresses: 273,700

Trade Shows: 10,900

Incentive Meetings: 67,700

Combined, meetings of all types contributed nine percent more to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product in 2012 than in 2009. In 2012, meetings generated over $115 billion for the country’s economy. Overall, they contributed more to America’s GDP in 2012 than the air transportation, motion picture, recording, performing arts and spectator sports industries combined.

It is clear the meeting industry is a significant contributor to the nation’s economy. What might not be as clear is how a conference can contribute to your career. To fully benefit from the networking and learning opportunities that conferences often present, it is helpful to understand how you can get the most out of them. Becoming familiar with how to take notes, network, deliver an impressive presentation and retain what you learned at a conference will help you get the maximum benefit from the next meeting you attend.

Conference Note Taking Tips

Even with the availability of mobile devices and laptops, conference note taking still means putting pen to paper and scribbling as fast as possible for many people. In an academic environment, the average student can only take notes at a rate of 0.3 to 0.4 words per second, but the average lecturer utters 2 to 3 words in the same length of time. This noticeable difference can make it difficult for even an adept note-taker to capture all the information they need by hand.

You may want to consider using a mobile device such as a smartphone to take notes. Before you commit to using a mobile device to record your notes, however, you should investigate how prepared your conference venue is to support the use of mobile devices. Call the host site for your next conference to ask if it has free Internet access, its reliability and speed and whether the service is available throughout the entire site. You should also inquire about whether the location has outlets available for you to charge your devices.

You may want to consider using a mobile device such as a smartphone to take notes. Before you commit to using a mobile device to record your notes, however, you should investigate how prepared your conference venue is to support the use of mobile devices. Call the host site for your next conference to ask if it has free Internet access, its reliability and speed and whether the service is available throughout the entire site. You should also inquire about whether the location has outlets available for you to charge your devices.

In addition to doing some advance investigation work and being prepared to keep your devices charged, you can do a few other things to take notes efficiently during a conference. Here are some tips to help you find the best way to take notes at a conference:

Use More than Text: Because of the gap in speaking time and note taking time, incorporating more than words into your notes can help you avoid missing critical information. You can use mind maps, pictures, sketches or even audio recordings. You may want to consider using text abbreviations, shorthand or a word completion app to increase the speed you can take down words.

Highlight Key Points: As you listen to a presentation, be sure you highlight the key points in your notes as the speaker makes them. Adding a simple star next to a point or highlighting the point in a word processing program can make it easier for you to find the most valuable information when you review your notes.

Organize Your Notes: Given the number of sessions you will attend and the volume of information you will have, it is important to keep your records organized from the start of a conference. After each session, be sure to save your notes by topic, speaker or session, so they are easy to find.

Review and Process Your Notes: The best time to review and process your notes is immediately after a session ends while the information is still fresh in your mind. This will give you the chance to add more details that you might not have captured during the lecture. Do not be afraid to ask other attendees to share their notes with you so you can incorporate some of the information they recorded in your notes to make them more complete. Just be sure you offer to share your notes with the people you ask and assure them that you will use their notes for supplementary information only.

Conference Networking Tips

If the thought of networking makes you cringe, you are not alone. Many businessmen and women try to avoid networking because it makes them feel fake. To prevent those feelings from causing you to miss the many benefits that networking can provide, you need to learn how to network at conferences effectively.

Networking has two primary purposes. It gives you the chance to meet new people who share your professional interests — individuals who may be instrumental in helping you advance your career at some point. Networking also gives you the opportunity to maintain relationships you have already established.

network primary purposes

View networking as a chance for growth and improvement instead of something you have to do to fulfill your work obligations. When you look at networking as a means to an end, it will help you overcome your inherent aversion to networking with others during a conference.

In addition to changing your attitude about networking, you can use the following conference networking tips to get the most out of the time you spend surrounded by peers, clients, vendors and prospects

Start Early: You should not wait until a conference begins to start networking — your networking efforts should begin several weeks before the conference takes place. Many conference organizers set up hashtags and websites to promote an upcoming event. By following the event on social media and frequently consulting the conference’s website, you will be able to keep up with the people who plan on attending the conference. When you see the name of someone you want to meet or reconnect with during the conference, send them a personalized message saying you hope to see them during the conference or asking what sessions they plan to attend.

If you see a session you do not want to miss, send a message to the presenter letting them know you will be there during their lecture. Even experienced presenters often worry about the number of people who will participate in their session, so assuring them that you will be there will help to alleviate their concerns. If you are unable to attend a session you are interested in, send a message to the lecturer expressing your disappointment and ask if they would like to join you for a meal or coffee to discuss their topic one-on-one.

Get Creative: If you cannot overcome your hesitancy to network in large groups, you will need to get creative. Consider inviting a select group of individuals to join you for dinner instead of forcing yourself to attend the mixer after the keynote address. This will allow you to control the number of people you will be networking with and include people you already know as well as individuals you are meeting for the first time.

Follow-Up: Just as networking starts before a conference begins, effective networking continues after the event is over. Ideally, you made notes about where and how you met new contacts during the conference. Use this information to create personalized messages for the people you would like to keep in touch with. Bear in mind that your new contacts will also be getting messages from other people they met, so you will need to make your words compelling enough to stand out and make them remember you.

Tips for Delivering an Unforgettable Presentation

Now that you know how to network at conferences and are familiar with some advice on the best way to take notes at a conference, you may be wondering what else you can do to get the most out of the experience. Getting involved by being an event facilitator or committee volunteer is one way to benefit from your next industry gathering. Being a presenter is another way to gain visibility.

As a presenter, people will usually see you as an industry expert. With that said, you do not want to undercut your credibility or jeopardize your professional standing by delivering a presentation that is not well-prepared.

Here are some tips you can use to make a presentation that your audience will remember for all the right reasons:

Find Your Presentation Style: There are many ways to deliver a presentation. The key is for you to identify the style that is the best fit for you and enables you to deliver your message naturally. To find your style, think about the lectures that have had the greatest impact on you and determine why they left such a lasting, positive impression. If they have involved things such as slides, themes or metaphors, incorporate these elements into your presentation.

Determine Your Message: While you want to share as much information as possible, you do not want to overload your audience members or distract them with too many ancillary points. Determine what you want to say and limit your message so that it only includes three to five main points that are easy to remember.

Prepare Your Slides: Just like a picture, a well-prepared slide can communicate a thousand words. Though it is tempting to use a lot of text on your slides, resist. Use simple images with limited text and explain each slide further with your spoken words. When it comes to slides, some lecturers make the mistake of thinking more is better. To avoid having to rush through your slides, plan to have a maximum of one slide per minute.

Plan for the Q&A: Delivering a scripted presentation is nerve-wracking enough for many lecturers, but having to answer unscripted questions after a presentation can be downright bone-chilling. You can plan for this by making slides that respond to questions you think your audience members will ask before you even give your presentation. If someone asks a question you are not prepared to answer, thank the person for their inquiry and suggest discussing it with them one-on-one after the lecture.

Practice: To deliver an exceptional conference presentation, it is critical to practice. If no one is available to give you feedback, record yourself as you give a practice presentation and make a note of anything you need to improve. Even if you are satisfied with your delivery, practice some more.

How to Recall Information After a Conference

If you have been to conferences in the past, you know it can be difficult to remember the things you learned during the event even when you made a point to remember them. One of the best ways to remember the things you learned is to start practicing them and incorporating them into your routine as soon as possible.

best ways to remember

Of course, reviewing your notes is another way to recall the information you picked up during a conference. You can reinforce what you learned even more by putting together a presentation for your coworkers. If giving a presentation is not practical, you should prepare summaries of the sessions you attended and make them available on a shared network so you and your coworkers can look through them.

Networking after a conference is another way for you to recall what you learned. Other conference attendees will probably be enthusiastic about discussing the topics that interested them the most. Reach out to the people who attended sessions with you to continue conversations on the subjects covered to reinforce what you learned.

Book Your Next Conference with Dover Downs Hotel & Casino

One of the smartest things you can do to ensure everyone gets the most out of a conference you are planning is to make sure it is held at the right venue. With an elegant boardroom with seating for 14, larger meeting spaces that can accommodate up to 150 guests and the 18,000-square-foot, multi-use Rollins Center, our luxurious property is the ideal location for a conference of just about any size.

When you host a conference at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, your guests will get more than versatile meeting spaces. They will enjoy award-winning rooms, an action-packed, smoke-free casino, boutique shops, an assortment of dining options and a relaxing, full-service spa.

To book your next conference at our breathtaking property, request a proposal from Dover Downs Hotel & Casino now.