This article was originally published at Ideas on Fire on October 3, 2017.
Conferences are a wonderful way to build professional community, see old friends, learn about new developments in your field, check out a new or favorite city, and get feedback on your work. They can also be a bit overwhelming because there is a lot to keep track of between sessions, receptions, meetings, travel arrangements, and meals. And considering most happen during the academic year and you rush right back into teaching or writing, it can be difficult to remember to follow up afterwards on the connections, opportunities, and ideas you encounter at the conference. But we’ve got you covered. Below are two checklists you can use to ensure you get the most out of your conference experience.
Before the Conference
- Check the program and note any people you want to connect with, sessions you want to attend, or events you want to check out
- Contact people you want to connect with at the conference, schedule your meetings/coffee dates/chats/hang outs
- Check for the conference hashtags and put them somewhere you can access them easily during the conference
- Print out your presentation or save your digital presentation materials in an easily accessible location (like your tablet/laptop desktop)
- Make sure your two-factor authentication systems are set up to allow you access to the accounts you need during the conference. This might mean updating your phone plan to receive texts, temporarily turning two-factor off if you won’t have cell access, etc.
- Make a list of 2-3 specific goals for the conference—these are the things you definitely want to do (all the rest is bonus). This might include connecting with a specific person, attending a social event, talking with a publisher representative, meeting with a colleague, or checking out a tasty restaurant near the conference hotel.
- Pack all the food you need for traveling. This might mean bringing food from home or making a list of the food you need to buy at the airport or train station. Planning this ahead of time means you won’t get stuck on a seven-hour flight without anything to eat.
- Practice your presentation to ensure it sounds good. Speaking aloud is a great way to find super long sentences that need shortening, moments that need better punctuation, or points that don’t make sense.
- Time your presentation to ensure it fits within the time limits. Nothing is worse for a panel chair than a panelist who refuses to stay within their time limits. It’s rude, disrespectful to other panelists, and unprofessional—don’t be that jerk. Practice ahead of time and cut material if needed.
After the Conference
- Gather all the contact info or business cards you collected at the conference and enter those into your contacts system, whether that is a dedicated contacts app, Word document, or Evernote file.
- Follow the people and organizations you learned about on social media, from the publishers whose representatives you met at the book exhibit and your co-panelists to the new friend or colleague you had lunch with and the academic department that sponsored that great reception.
- Record all of the productive feedback you received on your presentation and who gave it (file that somewhere that you will remember to look when revising). It’s also nice to thank those people on social media or through a quick email—this reminds them of the event and can help you establish an ongoing relationship.
- Write down any challenges you experienced during the conference trip, whether it was not having enough food for the plane ride or running over time while giving your paper. Make a plan to get the resources and habits you need to avoid repeating those in the future. This might mean writing shorter papers because you know you always run over time or setting reminders to pack more food for the plane ride.
- If you keep digital or paper folders for current or upcoming conferences/events, archive those wherever you save materials from past conferences/events. Make sure you keep copies of that stuff somewhere you can find it though—you don’t want to kick yourself later when you’re trying to remember what great suggestion that audience member made about your presentation four years ago. Write it down and file it away in a centralized location so you can look it up later.