Friday, October 25, 2013

Making the Most of a Conference, Convention, or Trade Show

My next column for the Mensa publication, The Intelligencer, is on making the most of a conference. I thought you might like an advance look.

The Life Well-Led
By Marty Nemko

Making the Most of a Conference, Convention, or Trade Show

When I came home from conferences, I'd often wonder if it was worth the hassle and time of going.

Now, I less often feel that way. What has helped is that I do each of these. Perhaps they may help you make more of the upcoming Mensa Regional Gathering. (RG.)

Before leaving for a conference, I think about what I want to accomplish there. Sometimes it’s as simple and vague as R&R and learning something new. Other times, I want to try to get quality time with particular people I know will be at the conference.

I enjoy public speaking so I always apply to present a session. I’ve titled my session at the upcoming RG, “What the Hell is the Meaning of Life?” I’ll share the stops and starts in my journey to define the life well-led.  If I were single, I’d probably volunteer at the registration table or as a welcomer for newcomers.

If the conference is far away, I try to arrive on the early side. Not only does that improve my ratio of conference time to travel time, fewer people are there early, which makes it easier for me to establish or build relationships.

I arrive early at sessions. That allows time to talk with people and perhaps ask someone to sit next to me during the session.  

During such pre-session chats, in between sessions, or at the hospitality suite, etc., I occasionally find myself wishing I could extricate myself from a conversation. Until recently, I A friend suggested this: At a propitious moment, stick out your hand, shake the person’s hand and say something like, “I’m going to grab something to eat. Maybe we’ll talk more later.” (And maybe not.)

At sessions, I’ll often ask a question. We grow from such customized active learning.

Sometimes, I skip an hour or two of sessions and instead, talk with someone or visit the exhibit area. The latter are often underrated. Vendors often send top people to staff their booth. Visiting the exhibit area provides an easy opportunity to chat one-on-one with some particularly interesting people.

If I want quality time with someone, I ask if he or she wants to sit together for one of the scheduled meals, to have a drink, or to go out for a meal or walk.

If I’ve not planned to sit next to someone at one of the conference meals, I try to arrive just a few minutes after the scheduled meal period begins. That way, I’ll have a good choice of people to sit next to yet I haven’t arrived so late that almost all the seats are taken.

Throughout the conference, I make note of people I want to follow-up with or things I want to do in light of the conference. I try to do those things right after the conference. Knowing me, every passing hour makes it less likely I’ll actually do them.

I hope to see you at the RG.  If I do, I hope you won’t take offense if I stick my hand out. 

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