I’m headed to the Points of Light Conference on Volunteering and Service to hear from some of the most amazing leaders and some pretty incredible visionaries. I love working in the non-profit sector for countless reasons, but one big one is that there is also something more to learn and the people who educate us are dynamic, passionate individuals.
I’ve been to my far share of nonprofit conferences, being that when I started out, I had literally no idea what I was doing! I jumped right in and have a few tips for the best way to get the most out of a conference…and these can be applied to any workshop or conference!
1) Business Cards. (Duh.)
- While I love to connect with people immediately on LinkedIn or social media, sometimes in the chaos of sessions, it is easier to hand them a card and promise to reach out when you get back to your hotel that night. (Tip: As soon as you walk away from them and have a second, write a little note to yourself on their card about who they were i.e. what they were wearing, a unique topic you discussed, what session you were in, etc. It helps keep all the contacts straight at the end of the day so you can follow up!). I got these guys designed by my favorite brand designer, Whitney Vass, but I think TinyPrints also has some really wonderful options. (I think these would really stand out and are such a creative idea!)
2) Business Card Holder.
- You think this is obvious but I didn’t bring one once and let me paint a picture here: Juls is rummaging around in her Mary Poppins bag trying to produce a 2.5×2.5 square piece of cardstock while people are rushing around here and her new-maybe-donor…not a great impression, really just a hot damn mess! This one from Poppin is only $6 and is super durable…do everyone a favor and help save your sanity.
3) Mobile Charger.
- I. would. die. Without my ban.do charger I would be on my own for navigating back to my hotel, catching up on emails in between sessions, and connecting with those folks on LinkedIn! Because I have two phones, both my work and my personal, I always make sure this little guy is fully charged every night…he’s got a lot of work to do!
- The first few conferences I went to I thought I’d be super cool and take my iPad. I typically work on it at night, responding to a few emails and checking through social media + graphics, so I thought it would be lightweight and easy to have during sessions to take notes. Shocker: that was a bad decision on countless levels. Few things:
- Very few large conferences are going to have tables that you’re sitting at – you’re most likely going to be in rows of chairs. If you can type on your iPad without it sitting on anything but your lap (even if you have a keyboard), great. For me, that didn’t work.
- I also was getting way too distracted. Since most conferences I attend are during the work week, I always fall behind. At first, I didn’t remember how important it was for me to be fully present and attentive to my speakers. Now, I only take notes in journal. Most presenters will send out links to their presentations and any resources they shared at the end. Don’t panic!
- Once upon a time, I found the notebook below at Homegoods. ’nuff said.
- Trust me. Between the early wake-up calls, hectic arrivals and check-in, and back to back sessions for hours upon hours, just do it.
6) A jacket, sweater, and maybe a fur parka.
- I don’t think I’ve ever been in a
hotmildly luke warm conference room. Nine times out of ten I’ve got goosebumps and my teeth are chattering. Even though it might be warm outside and you’re probably going to go grab drinks with new friends when sessions let out, pack that sweater in your bag to put on during the day.
These are just the things on my checklist…what is on yours?