1) Take a look at what's going on in the surround area of the conference and decided if there is anything else you want to do beyond the conference. Do you want to see the local sites, try a local restaurant, or maybe even see friends or family in the area. This may effect how you plan out our time before, during or after the conference.
2) Take a look at the schedule and decide what workshops, lectures and networking events you want to go to before you arrive. Conference can be overwhelming and knowing what you want to see ahead of time will streamline your time. Also its been my experience that you should stick with your gut. Each time I have switched workshops minutes before they start, I have regretted it. Go with your gut for what workshops you need the most.
3) Take advantage of volunteer opportunities. These can be great ways to meet new people and pick up extra perks (like more books, networking opportunities or access to new areas/events).
4) Type up or transcribe any notes you have on the workshops you attend at the end of each day. During the workshops it can be easy to write down quick but incomplete notes,. Make some time each night to transcript those notes into a more understandable form while the information is still fresh in your mind. Also, sometimes information makes more sense, or seems of more value, after it has had some time to set in. Dedicating time to transcribe these notes each night will allow you to get all the information down while it is still fresh in your mind. A lot of information will be coming at you, so its important to get as much of this down before it leaves you.
5) Make sure to make time for yourself. Its easy in these kind of overwhelming events to get involved in too much, and end up overdoing it. Mentally and physically. Make sure to take some time to relax, and enjoy yourself. Whether that's seeing the local sites, reading by the pool or just sleeping in late. Whatever refreshes you keep going through these marathon events. Remember, this is your vacation too. Its meant to be educational and invigorating, not debilitating.
These are the tips I've learned from the conferences I've attended. If you have any tips to pass on, please leave a comment below. I would love to hear your thoughts and find a new tip or two for myself.
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