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5 Ways to Make the Most Out of Your Higher Ed Conference

By: Annie on Feb 22, 2018 1:39:00 AM
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Higher Education conferences are a great way to learn a lot about the space, in a short amount of time. Listening to guest speakers, finding out about new and upcoming technology, and engaging in important discussions about current trends and strategies in higher ed are just a few of the things you can take away. However, with so much going on, it's easy to get lost in the excitement. We've compiled this quick and easy list of tips to help you navigate any higher ed conference, whether you're a conference rookie or a seasoned veteran. 

1. Schedule meetings beforehand Like most things in life, a little preparation goes a long way. If there is someone who you know will be attending the same conference as you, and you don't want to miss your chance to speak with them, arrange a casual meeting. Send them a quick email introducing yourself, and ask if they would have time to meet with you. If you can't find their email, search them on social media; LinkedIn is a great place to connect with other higher ed professionals. Be proactive with your schedule. 

2. Plan your days in advance Before arriving at the conference hall, sit down and go through the daily schedule. There won't be enough time to attend every session, so be strategic. Firstly, pick the sessions that interest you, or sessions that you think could be beneficial. Secondly, make sure that you don't just stick to one subject matter; pick a variety of different sessions to attend. This is your chance to learn new things that might not be available to you in your day to day life. Take advantage of the experience. 

3. Get ready to network Higher education conferences are a great place to meet people in your field that share similar interests and can provide you with valuable insights. That's why before you head off to a conference you should make sure that you've printed enough business cards. Your card should include your name, title, institution and contact information. In contrast, when you receive a business card from someone else, you should take notes on the back of it of important conversation points. This will come in handy if you want to reach out later and will remind the person of who you are by providing specific details of your encounter. 

4. Leverage Social Media Before you head off to a conference, search Twitter for popular hashtags. For example, the 2018 NASPA Annual Conference's most popular hashtag is #NASPA100. By searching this on Twitter, you not only see what the conference admins are talking about, but what other attendees are talking about as well. By doing a bit of research, you might find a session you weren't aware of that you'd like to attend. Also, by incorporating these popular hashtags into your own posts, they will come up in other people's searches, increasing your exposure in the higher ed space. Social media is also a great way to reach out to people before, during, and after a conference. Less formal than email, it's a great starting point when reaching out to someone for the first time. Finally, if you're an individual who doesn't like asking questions during sessions, social media is a great way to ask them later. Just make sure that you include the title of the session in your post, as well as the popular hashtag, in case someone else had a similar question. 

5. Learn Above all else, be open to learning. Listen more than you speak, and be open to new ideas. While it is okay to disagree with certain opinions or perspectives, you should take the time to consider what the speaker is saying before dismissing it completely. And finally, don't be afraid to ask questions. Whether you choose to ask them in person or online, asking questions is the cornerstone to getting the most out of higher education conferences. 

Bonus Tip - Don't forget to bring:

  • Laptop
  • Take notes every night on what sessions, conversations, meetings, etc. interested you while they are still fresh in your mind.
  • Phone
  • While you should not be spending all of your time on your phone, it is a great tool for keeping track of sessions, and posting to social media.
  • Chargers
  • A no-brainer for some, but can be forgotten in the chaos of packing.
  • Business cards
  • Don't miss out on a great networking opportunity because you have nothing to give to the people you are meeting.
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Finally, don't underestimate how much you'll be walking. Conference halls are usually quite big, and you don't want anything impeding this great opportunity.

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