Making the most of a conference

Our guest author, Sara Batts of law firm Reed Smith, shares her top tips for getting maximum value from conference attendance.

Conferences are a great resource - are you making the most of your time? Here are seven pointers for your next event.


Clear goals are essential. They may be:

  • Researching specific products
  • Learning a specific skill
  • Gaining a deeper understanding of the issues of the day
  • Building new peer group relationships
  • Hearing more about projects and case studies

All of these are valid and attainable, yet without some idea of what you want to achieve, you potentially waste time and money.

Plan your sessions. Create a wish list. Even if you end up changing your mind a rough Plan A is a useful guide. Busy conferences hold concurrent tracks - it's a sign of their success if there are times you wish you could be in three places at once...


Take business cards. Don't be shy. Be prepared to hand them out.

One thing that really has changed in the last few years is the way Twitter conversations go on alongside main sessions. With a Twitter account and a mobile device, you can join in the ‘backchannel.' (Two iPhone hints: bring your power cable and set screen brightness to the lowest level you can cope with. That way your battery may last out).

Pace yourself

Take a moment to mentally regroup between sessions otherwise those great ideas become jumbled and hard to retain. Take a break, grab a coffee, visit the exhibitors and come back fresh to the next session. You really don't have to do it all - and conferences often involve long days.


Exhibitors are human beings. It's an interesting exercise to watch people skirt a stand and avoid eye contact whilst trying to nab freebies. It's fine just to say hello...

Professional organisations

Is yours represented? Find their stand and introduce yourself, even if you don't recognise anyone there. Your input is useful and it's great to put faces to members' names.


Please do ask questions! There is no qualification bar for having an opinion or asking for more information on a speaker's topic.

Some events - Online is a prime example- have free sessions alongside the exhibition. Vendor presentations shouldn't be ignored either. All will offer quality speakers and topics to keep you informed. Sometimes finding a tangent can help spark your own ideas and creativity.


Once we used to rely on printed copies of conference papers. Now there may be podcasts, blog posts, and a Twitter archive to refer to after the event creating a rich and varied resource to draw on.