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Sep 27 2016
Learning Past the Classroom
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Starting the fall semester makes me think about continuous learning.  Even after a semester is complete, learning extends past the classroom. Learning can take place during meetings, a new project at work, and conferences. 
 
Last week, I presented at a conference called Great Lakes Users’ Group held at the Bavarian Inn in Frankenmuth. It is a regional group that discusses one commonality in our industry, which is the database we all use.  Continue reading to find out my top three tips while attending a conference.

Bring business cards.  Always.

Often times when I’m at a conference or networking event, I find myself talking with new people. Just as the conversation is about to end, I ask for business card, only to be told that they do not have one with them. It’s a big letdown for me and a missed opportunity for them. 

Try to get in the habit of always keeping a business card holder in your pocket or purse. Opportunities to learn and connect can often happen outside of formal business events. If your employer doesn’t provide cards, I’d suggest creating your own. The card should describe you as a professional, not just give your current job title. Vistaprint is a good site to use for free cards. It offers a wide variety of other products:  marketing materials, posters, invitations, and much more. As with anything else, the more elaborate business cards you’d like, there would be a cost involved.

Share your expertise.

All levels of the organization have something to share.  It does not matter if you’re an admin, mid-level manager or a C-suite officer.  The benefit of conferences is to share ideas, propose solutions, and be seen.  Last week, I gave two presentations.  One was more technical on an implementation project we just completed a few months ago.  The other presentation was more general and targeted towards new attendees.  Possibilities are endless, and you can get creative with topics.  The more creative and original, usually the better attendance.
 
Giving a presentation also gives kudos to you.  In many cases, conferences give added benefits to presenters, like a waived registration fee.  The overall advantage, is that you have the opportunity to showcase your skills and have the chance to network with more people!

Network.

Make it a point to talk to someone you do not know at a conference.  For the GLUG conference, we typically have a Sunday networking event.  It is a casual environment to chat with attendees before the conference begins.  If you tend to be more introverted like me, start out with some common ground and ask simple questions like:

  • “Have you attended this before?  Tell me what you’ve liked best about it.” 
  • “Who are you here with?”
  • “What is the takeaway from this conference you’re trying to achieve?”

These are simple ice-breaker questions that can get the conversation flowing.


 
What would be your top three tips for conference attendees?


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