Okay, so you’ve plunked down a specific amount of money to wear a shiny nametag and hear interesting lectures but the key to getting the most bang at a conference is to work it: Meet people and leap outside your comfort zone.
For instance, with the upcoming American Society of Journalists and Authors conference in New York City, in addition to lectures themselves, time is well spent talking to editors in between lectures, lingering in the hallways, and chatting with new colleagues at the luncheon. Sure, valuable information may be absorbed during various talks but the people interaction can be downright stimulating for freelancers who are busy working with me, myself, and I around the clock.
That said, sometimes the most important nuggets of information and new contacts may be obtained by leaping outside your comfort zone. As pointed out recently in a Fast Company blog post, Emily Heyward attended SXSW and indicated “instead of feeling inspired, I just felt tired.” Although she attended relevant seminars, the information didn’t seem to be innovative.
Getting her game on, she stretched her brain and consequently her brand by seeking information that wasn’t relevant. She wrote in the post, “It was a total turnaround from my first couple of days at the conference, and it got me thinking about other ways that we can step outside our comfort zones to stimulate fresh thinking.”
To that point, Heyward recommends not specializing. At her branding and design consultancy, clients ask about what she’s done in their category. Considering she mentioned it’s more worthwhile and fun to spread work and talent across different scopes and processes, so, too could be attending a lecture at a conference about a topic that stretches your mind.