Large industry conferences or meetings can be a little overwhelming to attend, especially if you’re an introvert. There are so many people there and it seems like everyone knows everyone else and maybe you’re feeling a bit out of the loop.

You’ve also got lots of educational opportunities with the General Session and Break-out meetings, and the social opportunities are everywhere! Receptions, meet-ups, dinners and just good old fashioned networking. It can be a little like drinking from the fire hose but there are some tips to help you navigate so that you are preparing for the best, most impactful experience you can have.

Here are 7 steps to help you thrive at your next conference or big meeting:

  1. What’s your intention? Before you go, spend some quiet time determining what you want to get from the conference? Is it a certain number of connections? A collaborative partner? More education around a particular topic? More business? Think of what experience you want to have by attending and what you want to have accomplished when you leave. Pick no more than 3 to focus on so you don’t get overwhelmed.
  2. Do your research. Once you know your intention, start your research process. Check out the agenda and find the topics that you want to focus on and then put them in your schedule. Check out social media and see who is commenting, what their tips and suggestions are and who you might want to connect with. Reach out to them in advance so that you’re on their radar. If this is your first time, find the first-timers reception.
  3. Bring a few handy supplies. Always a notebook or your favorite device for taking notes. In addition, you also want to bring a bag for business cards you collect. If you start sticking them in pockets, folders, wallets you’ll lose track of them. Keep a bag (plastic, makeup, change purse) in whatever you carry so they all go in the same place. Also, index cards or post its. For those really BIG ideas that you want to act on fast! Jot down the highlights and mark where you can find the rest of the information in your notes.
  4. Business cards (with a twist). Of course, you’ll bring plenty of business cards and I suggest they be a mat finish. When you meet someone, jot down how and where you met, and you want others to be able to do the same. A shiny finish makes that difficult. If you’re in an industry where you can have your picture on your card, all the better.
  5. Reconnect after you return. Always find the people you have met and connect on LinkedIn. When you send your request include a personal reminder of where you met (one sentence). Don’t use the standard message. It might also be appropriate to connect on other social media as well.
  6. Return/Review/Re-invent. After you have returned you want to have designated time to review what you’ve brought back in your notes and index cards and outline a plan to re-invent the areas you want change. How are you going to make change in these areas with what you know now? What are specific action items you have? Prioritize them. Schedule them. Put them on your to do list. Create goals around them if they are BIG!
  7. Restore. Give yourself time to relax and do something fun. As much motivation as you have to get going on what you’ve brought back, you need time to just be. Talk a walk, nap, cuddle, dance, cook – whatever makes you feel lighter. You’ve got your plan ready to go. Give yourself a day or two in between because you deserve it!Regardless of the size of the meeting, these strategies apply in some form. I hope these will help you get organized to make the most of your next event!

Until next time, here’s wishing you the clarity you deserve!