Before I register for the AFP International Conference the first thing I consider is, “what do I hope to gain from this trip?”
You see, for me this annual conference is more than a smorgasbord of best practice examples and how-tos. I view the conference as a way to recharge my batteries, renew my resolve, refocus my understanding, and hone my professional practice.
I use the conference as a way to reconnect with sector leaders and reinvest in newcomers to the profession. The conversations that take place between sessions and after dark are as valuable as the materials presented in educational sessions.
Well, now I’m on the ground in San Diego and here are some things I thought about on my journey here.
First, it is important to be informed and connected the duration of the conference. This year, in addition to the mobile version of the conference website, you will have a new tool at your disposal: the AFP ICON App for Blackberry, Android, and iPhone.
A great feature of the AFP ICON App is the ability to select sessions that are of interest using the category view, then switching to the schedule view to narrow down your daily plan. Sometimes I like to select two sessions for some time slots in case my first choice was not exactly what I anticipated based on the description.
Second, when I select sessions, I set a strategy to achieve a specific goal. In past years I have chosen sessions that would help me with a specific work project on the horizon. Other years I would plan my conference to meet key sector leaders to build a cadre of trusted mentors. A couple years ago I was working on a book manuscript so I attended sessions that would give me broader understanding for that topical area. I recommend downloading the handouts for your sessions the day before in case you don’t have a wireless signal or are unable to locate wifi.
Third, as you craft your conference experience and develop a plan of action here are things to consider.
- What kind of sessions do you want to attend? (topical, skill-level, specific speakers)
- Who do you want to meet? (new friends or trusted colleagues)
- What vendors should you interact with? (looking for a new service or an upgrade, this is the time to hear what options are out there)
To remain connected the duration of the conference I recommend downloading the conference app, getting on Twitter, and most of all… get outside your comfort zone with social media. But don’t forget to connect in the analog mode as well. This year, I am focused on reconnecting with folks I have lost touch with the last two years and the majority of these individuals are not on Twitter, so the annual conference is the best opportunity I’ll have all year.
Have a great conference.