6 Things to Know Before Attending a Conference

Conferences are wonderful opportunities to expand your existing knowledge, learn new trends, discover best practices, and network with others. Attending a conference is a big commitment, so make it worth your time, energy, and resources!

To get the most out of the Georgia Continuing Education Association’s Conference, answer these simple questions and come prepared for the best conference of 2023.

  1. What are your goals?
    What do you hope to accomplish at the conference? Often, we attend conferences to stay abreast of new trends in our industry; however, you might have career goals that could be polished and perfected. Showing up isn’t enough. Know why you are going, what you need to learn, who you want to meet, and what you can bring back that will give your organization and career new life. 

  2. Where are you going?
    Research the venue location. This involves reviewing a map of the conference space, scoping out possible meeting or session areas, and locating exhibits where sponsors and companies showcase services and products. Most conference organizers will supply names and addresses of restaurants, coffee shops, sports arenas, and concert halls. When you know where things are, focusing on your conference goals is easier. 

  3. What is the plan?
    Study the conference schedule. Read session descriptions and choose sessions in advance that will further your goals. Never miss a keynote presentation because that sets the stage for the entire conference. Attend as many sessions as possible, arrive at least ten minutes before each session, sit in front, meet the speakers and other attendees, and bring an open mind so that you are ready to learn something new. A.S.K. (Actively Seeking Knowledge) questions. You’ll get out of a conference what you put into it. So, have a plan!  

  4. Who can I meet?
    IPrepare for active networking. Know who you want to meet before the event. Here is a conference networking challenge: meet the keynote speaker along with every session speaker, meet conference organizers, and GCEA officers, and meet the competition! Remember the names of people you’ve met and use their names. Connect with other guests and plan to meet them for coffee or to attend a specific session. 

    Always STAY at the suggested conference hotel. Not only will you take advantage of the “block” lower rates, but this will create more opportunities to network. Hang out in lobby areas to meet people instead of spending time in your room. If meals are included, avoid sitting only with your friends; instead, sit at a table filled with people you do not know, introduce yourself, and get involved in the conversation. If meals are not included, plan on taking someone different out to dinner each night. 

    Don’t focus on business but focus on building relationships. Ask questions, listen, and find common ground. Attend the after-parties and follow up with old friends and new acquaintances after the conference is over. 

    Networking can be hard work, but it is also fun when you realize that all it takes is one new relationship to change your career or your business, one great connection can lead to a new job, and one positive word to change another person’s day! Good things happen when you know good people and approach conferences with an All Hands On Deck attitude

  5. What should I say?
    Create an elevator pitch and a brief introductory statement that lets folks know what you do. Prepare several simple conversation starters so that you don’t find yourself without words. It can be something simple, such as: What did you think of the last speaker? How did you hear about this event? What made you decide to join GCEA? What sessions are you attending? What has been your favorite session? How did you get started in this industry?   

  6. What do I need to remember?
    While there are many things to consider before attending a conference, my best advice is to take care of YOU. Get rest before the conference to stay alert and feel more comfortable meeting new people. Manage your diet and exercise routines to stay consistent with your normal activity. If you feel good, you will enjoy the conference more.

    Attendees receive lots of information, handouts, and business cards so create a system to collect this information and get it back to the office where you can put it to good use. QR codes are great to use instead of business cards or paper handouts that often get misplaced. They can be designed so the receiver immediately uploads the information to a digital file.

    Finally, complete a technology check and have a social media strategy. Follow the conference event hashtag through social media, engage with other people who are posting, and tag pictures. 

Being prepared for a conference will help you get so much more from the experience, but the Georgia Continuing Education Association (GCEA) Conference takes this a bit further by adding the opportunity to meet and interact with keynote speaker, Nick “Sunshine” Tokman, from the Discovery Channel’s TV series, Deadliest Catch. We have been working hard to provide the best conference we’ve ever had, and we are looking forward to having All Hands On Deck for the Georgia Continuing Education Association’s Conference in Savannah, Georgia.

Register today! For more information, contact us through our website https://gacea.org/  or call President Cher Brister at 678-226-6756.

See you at the conference!

Dr. Penny Joyner Waddel

2023 Georgia Continuing Education Association (GCEA) CONFERENCE

Dates: April 20, 21, 2023 
Location: Savannah, Georgia        
Key-note Speaker:  Nick “Sunshine” Tokman from the Discovery Channel’s Emmy Award Winning Show “Deadliest Catch”