Susan Kistler on Active Event Attendance

My name is Susan Kistler. I am AEA’s Executive Director and today I’m writing about attending an event as an active participant. While these suggestions certainly apply to the upcoming AEA annual conference, they also apply more broadly to any conference:

Hot Tip – Set Goals: It is easy to skip sessions, to sit back and listen passively, or to walk away without any new contacts. It is more difficult, but more worthwhile, to attend a range of sessions, to ask questions and add your voice to the conversation, to vow to have meaningful exchanges with three new people during a reception.

Hot Tip – Take Purposeful Notes: During each session, write down what is interesting or valuable. Immediately following each session, look at your notes and write a 1-3 bullet summary representing the key takeaways that you want to be absolutely sure not to lose.

Hot Tip – Take Action ASAP: Each evening, review your notes from the day and take action on as many as possible. This might mean that you write to a speaker for further details, download handouts for later reference, share a resource with a non-attendee colleague, or take the next step on a project, integrating what you had learned that day.

Hot Tip – Share the Load: Attending with a colleague? Agree to attend different sessions and debrief over coffee or wine at the end of the day. Don’t know anyone? See item 1 – set as a goal meeting someone on day 1 who might share experiences with you.

Hot Tip – Learn from Those Who Have Been There: Last year, I raised the question on AEA’s LinkedIn Group what recommendations they had for first time conference attendees. You can find a summary of their responses in this post from September 2010.

What are your tips for making the most of conference time?

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