We are just days away from the Micro Focus Cyber Security Summit in Dallas. No matter how many conferences I attend, the anticipation of the event always gets me excited before I leave. I remember the first software related conference I ever attended like it was yesterday. Having just started a new job in the industry, I was lucky enough to get an opportunity to attend one within my first month.
Having just come from the travel industry and attending just about every boat show in the world numerous times, my expectations of what I would experience could not have been more wrong. The idea of having sessions, keynotes, meeting rooms, networking events and more was a foreign thing for me. I remember showing up the first day so excited, but quickly becoming so overwhelmed with overlapping sessions and events that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. By the end of the three-day conference, I learned a good bit, but felt like I spent more time trying to figure out where I wanted to be or what I wanted to learn, that I miss some valuable time. That conference taught me a very valuable lesson. In order to maximize your time spent, it is very important to do some pre-show homework. So, I thought I would put together a few tips on how to make the most out of your next conference, and I hope that conference is the Micro Focus Cyber Security Summit next week!
Download the Conference App
These days, most conferences have a corresponding app. If you don’t download the app before you leave, you are doing yourself an injustice. With attendees, maps, agendas and more at your fingertips, you can be a lot more prepared before you ever step on a plane to leave. Attendees should have received an email with detailed instructions on how to download and access the app.
Decide What You Want Out of the Conference
Listen, I love to learn, and I love to learn about just about anything. The problem with that is I can find myself joining sessions that while they sound interesting to me, don’t really align with the real reason I am at the conference. So, before you leave, make a list of the top 3 things you want to get out of the conference. By doing that, you can align all of your plans to match those goals and save yourself wasted time.
Plan Your Sessions
Do some homework. Look through the conference schedule on the web or on the app you just downloaded because you listened to my first tip, and really think about which sessions match your conference goals. There usually isn’t a ton of time between sessions and lots of them overlap each other, so if you don’t know exactly where you want to be ahead of time, you’re going to waste time.
Use Social Media
Find out what the conference hashtag is, use it and monitor it. #MicroFocusCyberSummit is this year’s Cyber Security Summit hashtag. It’s a great way to connect to other people at the conference with similar problems, thoughts, ideas, etc. You can also see any live updates of anything that might change or find out where people you want to connect with might be hanging out. Another great thing I have used social media for during conferences is asking speakers follow up questions I might have had about their session that I didn’t get a chance to ask live.
Visit the Expo Hall
Even though most conferences are jam packed with sessions, they always give for attendees to have a chance to visit the expo halls. Don’t waste that opportunity. There is never any other times when you have the opportunity to speak with such a wide range of smart people in your field crammed into one place. Many people think expo halls are only for people shopping technologies and don’t want to be bothered by sales people pitching them this and that. Some of the best conversations I have ever had at conferences are by visiting the booths of the technologies I already use and just picking the brains of the booth staff. Not to mention its always great to just get to know the people behind the software you use. Connect with them, exchange information. Having more contacts in the company can only benefit you!
Most of the other tips I’ve laid out have forms of networking in them, but as a whole, don’t be afraid to talk to people. If there are networking events, join them. If there are groups of people sitting around talking, join them. Connect with people. These are your peers. People in the same industry as you, facing the same problems as you. I have never met a single person at a conference that wasn’t happy to exchange information with me and there are quite a few people I regularly keep up with. Sometimes it’s just a social thing to say hey, but other times it’s asking questions or running ideas by them about my job. Plus, it’s always fun showing up at a conference knowing who might be there and making plans with them. Great things come from networking.
Simple enough and nothing ground breaking, but the more you remember these types of things, the better your experience will be. So, if you are attending the Micro Focus Cyber Security Summit next week, which I hope you are, don’t forget these tips! The app is already available for download so you can get started now. And don’t hesitate to come say hey to me, I’d love a new connection!