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How to Get the Most Out of Conference Speaking Sessions

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How to Get the Most Out of Conference Speaking Sessions

06.05.2019

Attendees of any conference have a lot to look forward to: making new connections, exploring the latest technology, and letting loose on a buffet of complimentary food and drink. But the most valuable part of any conference can often be the stellar lineup of speakers that are assembled to share their wit, wisdom, and insider knowledge.

If you’re preparing to attend a conference it can be overwhelming when you first look at the schedule and try to imagine how you will collect some valuable takeaways while so much is going on. Luckily, it isn’t too difficult to take a few steps so that you can get the maximum impact from checking out a few speaking sessions. Below we list our quick guide on how to do just that.

How to Get the Most Out of Attending Conference Speaking Sessions

1. Decide Which Sessions You Want to Attend

This can be the most difficult step but is very helpful to have at least some sense of what sessions you want to see in advance. Even if you don’t have the luxury to plan weeks ahead of time, a quick browse of the schedule the night before or on your plane ride in will let you determine your priorities.

2. Research Key Speakers and Their Business

Just as it is useful to know which sessions you’re most likely to attend, it’s also a great idea to look up some of the speakers that stand out and know who they are and what they do. There is always a chance that a speaker could help your business in one way or another and could become a valuable contact. What could be a better icebreaker than bringing up something you saw a speaker say at their session?

Even if you don’t plan to network, knowing who is going to talk gives you a greater understanding of how relevant any given session could be to your business.

3. Write Down a Few Questions You Want Answered

If you are looking at the speakers and the topics ahead of time, then hopefully there are a few insights you’d like to pick up from each speaking session. Make it easier on yourself by jotting down a question or two that you’d like to have answered.

Maybe the speaker will cover your query, or you can hold your question until a Q&A at the end. If you don’t get to ask your question during the session, it could be a great reason to approach a speaker or fellow attendee afterwards.

4. Plan to Take Notes Without Transcribing Everything

Hopefully, each session will give you a few great tidbits of insight you’ll want to remember—ideally some will give you tons of valuable observations or strategies. The best way to retain all this is the simplest: have a pen and notebook ready to take a few notes.

The key is to write down only the most actionable or important items from each session. If you try to take down everything, it will be difficult to discern what’s important later. Usually speakers will make it easier to know what they see as the biggest takeaways by highlighting them on a PowerPoint screen or simply repeating them. More experienced speakers may even be literal and tell you to “Write that down.”

5. Be Ready to Talk about You and Your Business

You never know what may happen in a speaking session: some speakers prefer to be interactive and engage with their audience. As a result, it is very possible that you could have an opportunity to share some of your story during, or right after, a session. You should be prepared to have an “elevator pitch” to educate a group of people about who you are and what business you’re in. That way you won’t be tongue-tied or long-winded when asked to share details about yourself.

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