Your first step is to prepare. Do some research to find out what to expect. You can do this by reading through the conference website, marketing materials, conference social media sites, and by asking past attendees. Some of the things you’ll need to know are:
- How many attendees will be there?
- Will we be in one conference room, or several different break out conference rooms?
- Is there a dress code?
- Will there be a great deal of walking?
- Do I need to bring any printed material or will the materials be provided at the conference?
- Should I bring my laptop, tablet or writing portfolio?
- Do I need a rental car or will a shuttle service or cab suffice?
Establish a Reason for Attending
To determine your reason or goal for attending, consider the feedback you’ve received from your manager or administrative colleagues, as well as your past annual review. As you browse through the conference materials you’ll likely resonate with a speaker or topic. Establish a goal based on these insights. You may have 1 goal or 5 goals; it’s completely up to you. Your goals will help guide your concurrent session attendance and will keep you focused.
Make a promise to yourself that no matter what ~ you’re going to walk away from each session learning something. It might be from the speaker, the emcee, the attendees, conference or the AV staff!
Connect, connect, connect!
One of the benefits of attending a conference is the opportunity to connect with others in the administrative profession. I’ve had the opportunity to attend several conferences over the years and the people I’ve met have been key to my growth and development and have become good friends.
To capitalize on this opportunity, have a planned approach, such as bench marking. You may want to learn how other administrative staff manage their email, lead their administrative teams, or about their job description. If you have 3 questions in mind to ask the people you meet, developing a meaningful conversation and therefore a connection will be easy. You may want to take the time to have your questions printed on a 3 x 5 card so you can refer to it easily and make notes to record what you’ve learned.
If you don’t have business cards, get them ordered or make them yourself. You want to make it as easy as possible to help others connect with you. The time to ask for someone’s business card and to provide them your card is after the conversation starts flowing. Simply walking around a large conference room and passing out your business card and asking for their card, is not a way to create a meaningful connection.
Show Up with Confidence and a Positive Attitude
You are much more likely to be confident when you take the time to prepare, know what to expect, have a goal for attending and know how to create conversation so you can connect with others. This prep work will help you to be able to relax and be authentic. Demonstrating a positive attitude will increase your connection and likeability factor and will enable you to be open minded and ready to learn.
Follow Up by Implementing What You Learned
Make a plan for implementing what you learned so you won’t slide back into your routine. One of the best ways to make the learning stick is to provide a “teach back” or a summary to your administrative team. If you aren’t the lead of your administrative team, ask the lead if you can share what you learned with the team the month of your return. When you know you are on the hook for a teach back, it will drive you to take great notes and be engaged so you can deliver meaningful content to your team.
On the trip home, review your notes and determine your top 3 take aways. What were the highlights of your learning? These can be things you learned from the speakers or from administrative colleagues. Once you’ve identified your top 3 take aways, write a thank you card to your manager, not an email, stating something along the lines of:
Thank you for the opportunity to attend the Conference. I learned a great deal, my top 3 take aways are:
I look forward to sharing more information with you as well as my plans for implementation.
Your Administrative Extraordinaire
I guarantee you that if you follow up with a thank you card and do what you say you’ll do; your manager won’t hesitate to invest in your education in the future.