Getting the Most Out of Attending a Conference

Those new to the practice of “conferencing” might be unfamiliar with choosing and navigating a conference to best meet your goals, dealing with conference etiquette, and balancing socialization and self-care. There are no shortages of professional conferences offered to nurses, and almost every nursing organization offers one to its members. Nevertheless, in order to get the most out of a conference, preparation is essential. Continue reading for advice on how to make your conference experience purposeful, meaningful, and successful.  Pre-conference Preparation
Start by thoughtfully selecting a conference that best suits your career goals and objectives. One method for selecting a conference is to choose based on the overall content described in the program. For example, if you practice clinical work and research, you may want to select a conference that offers a wide range of applied and experimental presentations. Once you have decided on which conference(s) to attend, you will need to register, reserve your hotel room (or other lodgings), and purchase your airline ticket (or other transportation accommodations). You may also want to coordinate with a colleague to share a hotel room to cut the cost. Decide whom you want to meet at the conference and try connecting with them in advance to better your chances of getting together. Additionally, you may find it helpful to write down goals and objectives (Beccera et al., 2020).
During the Conference
Given the multitude of conference events you can attend with other professionals, you need to tactfully represent yourself, your organization, and your field. Be prepared to meet professionals in any setting before, during, and after the conference events. Get plenty of rest! Conferences are sort of like marathons that require planning to maintain energy for successful behaviors. During the events, actively listen to the speakers and take notes. Avoid the temptation to get work done by multitasking. Give the speaker(s) your full attention and engage in meeting new people. Before leaving the conference, make it a priority to verify that CEUs are organized and fully submitted. Take a picture, make a copy, or take a screenshot of whatever documentation you are required to submit before submitting so you can have a record of how many CEUs you earned. Additionally, if you have attended the conference with funding from an organization, sort any receipts for reimbursement. Even if you are funding your own conference experience, take time to organize receipts for tax deductions (Beccera et al., 2020).
Post-Conference Considerations
Review your notes and locate articles of interest mentioned during the sessions. In addition, follow up with further actions you plan to make. For example, you may have met a contact to whom you promised you would send a research article. Creating a contact list of those you met at the conference, relevant details about your interactions with them, and any follow-up tasks will help you remember your conversations. Also, sending an appreciative e-mail about the talk’s content or quality of the discussion at the end of the conference can plant a networking seed that may bloom by the next event. Make notes of important meetings or discussions on professional business cards. Lastly, reflect on your conference experience. Given the amount of work and money put into attending a conference event, consider whether you will elect to attend it again in the future. Reflecting on the benefits of attending in temporal proximity to the event should allow for a more accurate evaluation than thinking back after several months or years (Beccera et al., 2020). 
Reference:
Becerra, L. A., Sellers, T. P., & Contreras, B. P. (2020). Maximizing the Conference Experience: Tips to Effectively Navigate Academic Conferences Early in Professional Careers. Behavior analysis in practice, 13(2), 479–491. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40617-019-00406-w 

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