How To Get The Most Out Of A Professional Conference

Conferences are an opportunity to attend presentations from leaders in your industry, network with other professionals, and bag some fantastic swag from vendors. But during the crush of breakout sessions and networking events it can be tough to focus your time and easy to come home feeling that you missed out on some key opportunities. Check out our tactics before you go to make sure you’re getting the most from the next conference you attend.

Be Strategic With Your Time And Money

The fastest way to throw away hundreds of dollars in conference fees is to register without reviewing the conference agenda first. Take a close look at the program. Is there more than one session which addresses the topic(s) you want to learn about? Especially if you’ve gone to the same conference a few years in a row, it’s a good idea to shop around for the right conference that will help you develop new skills and stay ahead of trends.

After you’ve registered, use the conference agenda to sketch out a schedule tailored to your professional development goals. If the conference has an app or other web portal where you can access presentation slides beforehand, take a look at the slides to help you decide which session will be most valuable. You might try a “deep-dive” approach by hitting every session on a particular topic, or you might go to a mix of sessions to broaden your knowledge base. When choosing which concurrent sessions to attend, it’s helpful to make a note of your first and second choices. If you realize within the first few minutes that the session you’re sitting in isn’t going where you thought it would, you’ll be able to quickly and discreetly leave and join your second-choice session.

There isn’t one right answer for picking breakout sessions. Some people like to skip a few concurrent sessions to work on reviewing notes from the previous session and come up with a plan for implementation at their organization. Pick the strategy that works best for your learning style and professional objectives.

Meet People And Make Connections

Attending a conference is a great way to meet new people in your industry and expand your network. Lots of conferences use Facebook event pages or apps like Guidebook to help attendees connect, so be on the lookout in the days before the conference for which platforms are available and keep track of the people you’d like to meet. Don’t be afraid of sending a direct message to a potential contact before the event with an invite to coffee at the conference hotel. Making plans before the event can save a lot of time and stress once you arrive.

Conferences can also be a good time to network within your own organization. If you find out that someone from another department will be in attendance who you haven’t worked with closely before, you might offer to split a cab to the airport and chat about what you’re hoping to learn at the conference. You could also offer to connect at the welcome breakfast; having a buddy will make facilitating introductions with new contacts easier and give you a chance to learn more about what other teams at your organization are working on.

Stay Energized And Make Time For Yourself

Conferences are exhausting. It’s easy to forget about self-care when you’re busy, but if you spend days pushing yourself to attend every breakfast, dinner, and after-hours networking reception, you’re going to burn out and not be at your best. When you’re reviewing the conference schedule and deciding which sessions to attend, also build some downtime into your schedule.

  • Get enough sleep. Take note of when you can expect your day to realistically begin and end. If breakfast starts at 8:00am but the first breakout session doesn’t begin until 10:00am, you might want to get some extra rest and head down to the exhibit hall at 9:00am or 9:30am.
  • Eat well. When you’re booking your travel and accommodations, take a quick look at restaurants in/near the airport and hotel to make sure you’ve got some healthy options nearby. Finding yourself in a food wasteland? Pack some healthy snacks to supplement the conference grub.
  • Recharge your batteries. If you’re an introvert, rest assured you don’t have to attend every networking happy hour and dinner group. Balance social events with some quiet time in your room catching up on emails or reviewing notes from the last keynote session. It’ll help make sure you don’t get too overwhelmed.

Bring The Right Gear And Stay Organized

Business travel can be stressful with long days and lots of location-hopping. Avoid unnecessary stress by making sure you take care of these things before boarding the plane:

  • Bring your phone and laptop chargers (and backups). Having your devices handy and fully charged with help you navigate the conference and also allow you to catch up on emails during downtime.
  • Pack plenty of business cards. It’s better to have extras than to run out.
  • Pack outfits that work. Bringing layers will save you from unnecessary shivering or sweating on those days when the hotel conference rooms are 40 degrees and the weather outside is 80 degrees.
  • Bring a bag that’ll keep you organized. Have a system for collecting materials – e.g., session notes saved in a journal or digitally in Evernote; brochures and exhibitor materials in a large pouch in your bag; business cards in a card case or digitally captured in an app like CamCard. When you get home you’ll know exactly what you’ve collected and where to start following-up.

Conferences are an avalanche of information. Between breakout sessions and networking events you’ll come away with more notes, knowledge, brochures, key chains, business cards, and contacts than you previously thought possible. Make the most of your time, learn all that you can, and enjoy!





Secrets Of A Master Networker

Succeeding in work and life is all about making connections. Want to learn how to network like a pro? Read on for our tips on how to work the room like you own the place.

Stay Enthusiastic

Not everyone lives to socialize, and networking can sometimes feel like a chore. Pump yourself up by reminding yourself that your connections with other likeminded people are the key driver behind not just career advancement, but personal fulfillment. Think about networking as a learning opportunity and chance to meet interesting people rather than just a tool for your job search. Pairing up with a friend or colleague to attend networking events can help you break the ice and keep things fun.

Make Your Own Networking Opportunities

Networking doesn’t just happen at networking events. If you’re at a conference, skip some sessions and see who you meet over coffee in the exhibitor hall. When travelling for work, people often go to the bar to relax: Do the same, even if you’re not drinking, and you may meet someone with great contacts or career advice. Social media is also an excellent platform for expanding your network. Follow your colleagues on Twitter or LinkedIn and then follow the people who they are following. Before you know it you’ll have a feed full of industry news, events, and tips. Like or retweet these posts and your new connection will likely do the same for you.

Know Yourself (And Get To Know Others)
Collecting business cards isn’t networking. Networking is building relationships, and the way to do that is by being interesting and showing a genuine interest in others. Before going to an event, make a mental list of the top three skills that you possess and two or three things that you have to offer to a new connection. Knowing your skills will help you have better conversations, as you’ll find that even when you don’t have the same job title or function as the people you meet, you will likely use many of the same skills in your work. Keeping in mind what you have to offer – whether it be contacts in a specific industry or willingness to volunteer for an event or project – will help you make meaningful connections.

Master The Art Of The Follow-Up

In the end, all of your time and energy networking comes down to the follow-up. Make sure when you’re making new contacts that you not only write down a few details about each person but also how they prefer to be contacted. This will help you craft your follow-up in a way that gets results. If your contact prefers connecting on LinkedIn, like or share a few of their posts before sending a direct message. If your contact prefers phone calls, wait a few days before calling to ask them to coffee to learn more about their work and their company. Build trust by showing that you are interested in getting to know them and offer to be of service by connecting them to other contacts or resources.

These strategies can help you leverage your skills and build connections in your industry. Need more help mastering networking? Connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

2017 Talent Forecast


What skills do you need to get a job in 2017? We mined our Labor Insights database to get a snapshot of the skills in greatest demand over the past year to make a forecast for the year ahead.

2016 Career Snapshot

We pulled data from over six million job postings between Dec 2015 and Dec 2016 looking for the top skills employers want. Check out our chart of the top 15 specialized skills sought by employers and the number of job descriptions requiring those skills.

Our data shows that the specialized skills in greatest demand are Microsoft Excel/MS Office, budgeting, and project management. Why are these skills so valuable? They reflect of the changing world of work.

Data Science Will Power The Future

Why do Excel, SQL, and Python consistently rank as the most in-demand software skills? Because data science is the fastest growing industry in tech right now. Big data isn’t just a buzzword, it’s the future. In a 2009 paper, “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Data”, Google’s AI expert Peter Norvig explained the power of big data by saying: “Simple models and a lot of data trump more elaborate models based on less data.” While statistics might explain something happening right now, “data science can discover and extract actionable knowledge that can be used to make decisions and predictions,” writes Irving Wladawsky-Berger in the Wall Street Journal. The field of data science will continue to grow in 2017.

Learn more about Data Science >>

Budgeting Will Drive Strategy

A budget isn’t just something that the finance office requires for accounting reasons. Creating your departmental budget means mapping out your financial and operational goals and setting up a financial plan to achieve them. The budget for your department is part of your organization’s overall strategic plan and will be used when your leadership team is considers acquiring new products or systems or reallocating resources. Budgeting is a skill increasingly in demand as companies work to improve operational efficiency and coordinate activities cross departments, especially when their decisions that will impact long-term growth. As a manager, your department’s budget is also a common benchmark for your performance review, so being able to make a compelling argument for increased resources or talk about why actual results veered from the original budget is invaluable.

Learn more about Budget & Finance >>

Project Management Will Win Big

Project management looks easy until you try it. Complex projects involve multiple teams with varying deadlines and unexpected constraints on time and resources, all of which makes it challenges to deliver on-time and within budget. Any innovative project involves risk, and having someone on the team who understands the people skills, practices, and processes of successful project managers is what allows organizations to manage and control risk. Project managers drive organizational innovation by ensuring that projects are integrated with business processes and systems, and they also help companies maintain their bottom line by keeping projects within scope.

Learn more about Project Management >>

Whatever your industry, developing skills in data analysis, budgeting, and the project management can have a tremendous impact on your day-to-day work and help future-proof your career. We wish you the best in your professional advancement in 2017.

Holiday Networking Tips To Jumpstart Your New Year

While it is tempting to take a break from everything work-related over the holidays, you don’t have to put your career on ice.  With so many parties and events in December this is a great season for networking. Many organizations also begin to implement new budgets at the beginning of the year which include money for new hires, so if one of your resolutions is to land a new job in 2017, here a some tips for things you can do over holiday cocktails to become a master networker.

Boost Your Job Search With Season’s Greetings

The holidays are a great time to reconnect with your professional network. Whether it’s via email or a handwritten card, you can use your holiday greetings to benefit your job search. Thank each connection for their support over the past year, and also use this message to highlight any developments in your career and reiterate your professional goals. This is especially helpful to send to your professional references to alert them to any professional development you’re doing to keep your skills sharp.

Use The Holidays As Your Icebreaker

It can be hard figure out how to lead a networking conversation, but at its core networking is about communicating passions and connecting with others who share those passions. The holidays can inspire plenty of questions to break the ice and get to know other people better. Asking which holidays people celebrate, what their favorite holiday foods are, and whether they’ll be travelling before the new year are all ways to kick off a conversation that’s personal and fun. Questions revolving around food and travel are great go-to icebreakers throughout the year, as nearly everyone loves to eat and enjoys travelling.

Make A List (But Don’t Check It Twice)

Setting objectives for what you’d like to get out of each event — whether that’s getting an introduction to a specific person or talking to at least three people before you leave — can give you a sense of accomplishment and boost your confidence as a networker. The holidays are an opportunity to take the pressure off yourself and make networking fun again. Don’t bring your resume to the office holiday party, but instead set a goal of building rapport with new connections and setting the stage for a follow-up in the new year. Make your networking event goals something that you can achieve within the first hour and leave time to enjoy the holiday spirit. You never know who you’ll meet at the hot cocoa bar or how that person might help your career.

Focus On What You Can Do For Others

The holidays are a time for giving back, and one of the secrets to successful networking is focusing on others rather than yourself. If you’re an introvert who dreads corporate holiday parties, look around for someone else who has no one to talk to. Approaching that person with a friendly smile and an introduction is a gift they’ll certainly be thankful for. Always look for ways that you can add value by figuring out what others need and connecting them to people who might be able to help, even if that person isn’t you. Facilitating connections helps build genuine relationships and encourages people to return the favor someday.

Happy holidays and happy networking!

Smart Ways To Get Out Of A Rut At Work (Without Quitting)

Ever feel like even when you spend more time on work, you still can’t get anything done? Do you find yourself staring at your computer screen aimlessly, feeling that you’re doing the same thing today that you did yesterday… and will do again tomorrow? If you’re stuck in a rut at work it can feel like the only answer is to find a new job, but there are things you can do to break out of a rut and start feeling good about your work again without hitting the job boards.


Take some time to think and figure out when you started feeling “off.” Are you physically exhausted from weeks of overtime? Are you emotionally depleted by something going on in your personal life? Or have you advanced enough in your field that you never feel challenged at work? Once you understand what’s causing you to feel stuck you can create a plan to recharge your life.

Get Organized

When you’re in a rut, it’s typical to let things pile up. Get organized by replying to those emails, decluttering your desk, and finishing up those half-completed projects. This will give you the forward momentum to make positive changes.

Shake Up Your Routine

Research shows that change – even small changes – can significantly improve your outlook and give you a new direction. Shake up your daily routine by swapping your office chair for a standing desk or an exercise ball, take a day to telework, or make time to talk to your colleagues face-to-face rather than communicating solely via email. Breaking your routine can reinvigorate you and help you get inspired to try other new things like reading a book or blog (like this one!) or going to a professional seminar.

Find Your Vision And Work Towards It

If you’re experiencing burnout, it’s easy to disengage and leave your best self at the door. Reignite your passion for your work by remembering why you started your career in the first place and what vision you had for yourself in the future. Once  you have a solid vision, don’t make the mistake of assuming that your role in your organization is limited to your job description. Look for opportunities to network across departments and develop new skills, and you may open the door for new and interesting projects or even a promotion.