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Getting the Most out of the Conference

Vancouver based author and business woman Angela Crocker considers herself a conference junkie.  “I could put “Conference Go-er” on my resume,” she says in a series of blogs before last year’s Social Media Camp.  “I’ve experimented with what to do and take. After lots of blisters, useless notes, dead batteries and some wicked headaches, I’ve figured out what works.” She shares her insights here in anticipation of the AFP International Conference.

A Couple of Weeks Ahead

The first step, she says, is to make sure you have enough business cards; even if you don’t have a business you still need card.  “Having a card makes it easier for the people to find you again after the conference,” says Crocker. 

This is also the time to start planning your week with the help of the conference schedule.  “Make some decisions about what you’d like to attend before you arrive but be flexible enough to go anywhere on the day. Make your selections a blend of topics you already know and challenge yourself to learn something new,” she suggests. 

She also suggests getting online and starting to make some connections.  The speaker list is a great place to start.  Follow them on Twitter, Fan them on Facebook and start reading their blogs.  You should also find the conference hashtag and start tweeting your heart out. Make sure you are using the official hashtag (it’s #AFPMeet).

The Week Before

Crocker calls the week before packing time. Start a packing list of all the technology you want to bring with you. This could include a cel phone, a camera, a laptop or iPad, chargers, peripherals like external speakers, a wireless mouse, microphones, headsets, batteries and a power bar.  

When packing your wardrobe consider the time of year, the weather and the geography. “A sunny summer day at a ranch venue requires jeans and a hat whereas a June day in a conference centre requires business casual attire including a shawl, light jacket or cardigan just in case the air conditioning’s on full blast. Beyond the practical, try to figure out the style of the conference,” Crocker adds. 

She also suggests paying special attention to your feet.  “I implore you to pack comfy shoes. Flats, sandals or nice walking shoes are essential for you to keep on trucking around the conference. Wear runners if that works for you but please leave the smelly trail run sneakers at home for sake of those who have to sit next to you!”  

Pack any books you want to have signed by authors who will be at the conference. Then, consider your note taking preferences: paper notebook or iPad / Blackberry? “Whether you scribble detailed notes, jot down some key points or doodle the concepts that speak to you, make sure you have the paper & pens or digital gizmo that works for you,” she says. 

Crocker also recommends packing a self-care package for your hotel room. “How can you look after yourself?” she asks.  “What creature comforts will recharge your batteries between conference days?” Suggestions include a water bottle, pain relievers, antacids, extra reading glasses, your favorite pillow, hand sanitizer, bubble bath, gluten-free energy bars, and a novel.  

You will need a bag to carry around at the conference and Crocker says it could be a purse, a man-bag or a backpack, but it should be small.  “Make it a small bag so you won’t be tempted to carry around a lot of extra stuff and travel light so you won’t tire as quickly. This is also a courtesy to those sitting around you in packed conference rooms. Leave everything you won’t need back at the hotel.”

When You Arrive 

Get enough sleep and arrive fully charged, if you can.  “Being well rested is a great defense against any conference germs (they happen) and you won’t embarrass yourself yawning all the way through the keynote or other presentations.” 

“Find your winning smile and bring it along,” she adds.  “Please, leave your “grin and bear it” grimace at the office. Prepare to share the part of you that’s excited to be at the conference. If you’re not excited why are you coming?”  

Finally, make sure you have some cash in your pocket.  It will make your conference life easier. “Buying a latte is much faster with cash and the lines are often long. Do your bit to keep things moving quickly. It’s also easier to chip in for lunch or cocktails with a group of conference buddies if you can put cash on the table for your share,” says Crocker. 

Angela Crocker owns Beachcomber Communications and wrote The Complete Idiots Guide to Creating a Social Network.

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