The “Do’s” and “Don’ts” of the Professional Conference
I recently attended the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) for the very first time. It was truly a unique experience, and I will remember it for the rest of my life. 

Conferences, on their own, can be great experiences. If you know how to approach a large professional event, you can leverage almost any conference in your favor. 

Let’s examine some “DO’s” and “DON’Ts” you should keep in mind before, during, and after a professional event or conference. 

Before the conference… 

DO…Plan ahead. 

Take the time to conduct research about the event you will be attending.

You should know almost everything you can reasonably know about the event. Be aware of every speaker in attendance, where they will be speaking, and for how long. 

If the event will feature booths with sponsors, vendors, and organizations, you should know which ones will be there and estimate how much time you should spend interacting with them. 

Be conscious of the venue itself. The location, the typical climate, or chance of inclement weather while you are in the area and prepare your wardrobe accordingly. 

Here is a strategy tip: Imagine yourself as a member of the “Events” staff at the event, and consider what you might expect them to know. 

During the conference

DO…Get plenty of rest. 

The conference lifestyle is a true grind. The programming can begin early in the morning and continue into the late hours of the evening. This aspect of the typical conference schedule has pros and cons. 

Pro: the longer days mean you have more time to learn from speakers and network with other conference attendees. Con: it is a long day. 

DO…Remember to be flexible. 

The plans you made will change. Perhaps you had planned to attend a program that the conference is offering, but a connection you made after an earlier session would like to grab a coffee during that time. You must then make a decision based on the plans you have made thus far. 

Your plan is a guideline to keep you from getting lost in the endless possibilities the event presents to you. 

DO NOT…Make a fool of yourself. Nobody wants to be the person who leaves the event with a ton of business cards, but not an ounce of dignity. 

As long as the conference is on, YOU are “on.” Quite simply, during the event you will encounter scores of people. Some could be potential employers, colleagues, and perhaps most importantly, friends. You do not want to lose their respect before you have even met them! 

Any time you have food or drink at the conference pace yourself and remember your manners. 

Dress to impress. Wearing the appropriate attire reflects well on you as a professional. It means that you respect and honor those around you, it shows that you think about the impressions you make on others, but most importantly, it shows that you respect yourself. 

After the conference

DO…Follow up with new contacts you made at the conference. 

Send an email thanking them for taking the time to speak with you. Mention a topic you were talking about and ask if they would be willing to continue the conversation at some later date. 

DO NOT…Delay. Follow up with new contacts within 48 hours of meeting them. 

Try to keep all of your new connections alive. The best way to do this is to remain prominent in the mind of the person you connected with. 

So get going! Find a conference that interests you and make it the most productive week of your professional life.