When it comes to corporate conferences, a less experienced business person may think: This is my chance to break out of the office, and all on the company’s dollar! But you know better. It’s not about the minibar or hotel pool, it’s about getting the chance to network with other professionals in your field, gain insight on new technologies in human resource management and pick up a few more skills.
So we can’t stress enough how important it is to be prepared for the trip. Here’s five tips on how to get the most out of the next conference you attend.
1. Set goals before you depart for the conference.
What do you want to achieve while there? Don’t just skulk along the outskirts of the meeting hall. Decide to collect a certain number of business cards and build meaningful professional relationships with peers. Are you simply going for the free conference bag and ballpoint pen, or will you go to as many roundtable discussions about personnel management and HR software as possible, taking copious notes?
2. Conferences are jam-packed – don’t get overwhelmed.
Most conferences will post the agenda before the event, giving you the chance to highlight the can’t-miss speakers and sessions you should to attend. From there, plan out your schedule accordingly. If you have a chance, do a little research on the featured lecturers so you can jot down a few questions for the Q and A that will likely take place afterwards.
3. Network with other HR professionals.
Conferences are one part education, one part networking, and this is your chance to pick the brains of fellow HR professionals from around the country and expand your base of colleagues.
As much as we warn you about social media abuse in the office, professional websites such as LinkedIn or Gist are great ways to manage contacts and build your own profile, as well as your company’s. Don’t discount the value of these sites – they are playing an increasingly important role in recruiting practices, and also give you the chance to sound off about professional challenges.
4. Interrogate the software vendors.
Is your company currently using a Human Resource Management System, or do you have payroll software? If so, conferences offer a great opportunity to learn more about the services your current vendor offers, and gives you the chance to compare your company’s software with others.
This is also the time to learn about additional functions and tools that can optimize your use of HRMS and payroll software. Some HR professionals wrongly think that these systems are only good for keeping track of hours and benefits, but the technology offers much more – such as running reports on benefits and calculating performance metrics. Ask vendors how you can apply your HR software to managing personnel, and brainstorm about what solutions can help your company achieve maximum return on employee investment.
5. Get home, breathe, follow through and follow up.
After days of listening to HR gurus, it’s time to go back to the office and take your place as the resident management expert. Sort through your notes and write up a review of the conference. Try making a bulleted list of the key points, along with a more detailed packet of innovative techniques or programs you think your company could implement.
From the summary, pick a few initiatives you want to start right away. It could be a wellness program or an incentives system. Brainstorm with your coworkers and start drafting plans for how you can get the ideas rolling.
You may be maxed out and exhausted when you get home from a conference, but it’s vital to reach out to the people you met and solidify those fledgling relationships. Go through the stack of cards you likely collected, and reach out to your new connections. Send a few thank you emails, or pose the questions you wished you had asked back at the conference center.
What do you think, did we miss any great ideas on how to maximize time spent at HR conferences?