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5 Tips to Capitalize on Your Conference Participation

Early summer 2017 brought some wonderful opportunities for knowledge and learning in our industry! In mid-June, there was the Professional Convention Management Association Education Conference (Educon) in NYC, and Cvent Connect and Meeting Professionals International’s World Education Congress both met in Las Vegas. In July, the Global Business Travel Association will hold its Annual Convention in Boston.

Why do I say these are wonderful opportunities? Because industry events give us a break from our usual day-to-day activities and allow to learn from subject-matter experts, thought leaders, and peers, and experience firsthand what is new in meeting and event design. In fact, MPI has branded its 2017 WEC as "Stop Planning Meetings. Start Designing Experiences"—a promise of insights into new and valuable ideas for more effective meeting environments.

There are many ways to participate in meetings and events: It’s no longer just about traditional general and concurrent sessions, but also campfires, learning labs, Ted-style talks, and experiential tours.  The ability to continue the learning has evolved, too. There are discussions during CSR activities, curated round tables, pop-up learning pods, and networking events. With the continued improvement of technologies, people who can’t attend in person can now actively engage in sessions virtually. This evolution of meeting and event design has taken the face-to-face learning experience to a deeper of level of satisfaction for most meeting participants.

Below are some tips for making the most of your next meeting or event:

• Keep an open mind. Take advantage of learning why others have a different perspective than yours. Seek to understand the issues they face, and hold that knowledge for future application.

• Clear your calendar. Avoid taking conference calls or staying in your room to work on special projects, if at all possible, so that you can be 100 percent focused on gaining knowledge during the entire meeting.

• Consider new ideas. Participate in a session that may not seem 100 percent applicable to your current role. You may learn about some interesting that will broaden your viewpoint.

• Hone your networking skills. Say hello when in the elevator instead of looking at your phone. Have a few “ice breaker” questions ready when standing in the buffet line or sitting in a session room: Have you attended this conference before? How did you get started in the industry?

• Make use of the meeting app.  These multi-function tools have everything in one place: gamification, surveys, networking, session content, and live Q&A. It is fun to get engaged with the tech tools, and this will give you better insight into what your attendees are experiencing.

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