Getting the Most Out of Your Convention Experience

MEHRC logoEvery May for the past four years, I’ve been attending the Maine HR Convention at the Samoset Resort, in Rockport. The reason this has become a must-attend event for me is that year after year, this week-long HR-centric convention continues to deliver value. I’m not sure why I wasn’t attending before then.

While I’m not able to spend the entire week in Rockport, I always try to pick the best two days for me and stay over, and then hit a third day’s workshops and events before making the drive back home. 

It’s possible that since I wasn’t in HR that I thought I wouldn’t find anything of value during this annual gathering. However, once I attended my first one in 2009, I realized how beneficial it was for me to connect with Maine’s HR movers and shakers, especially for the WorkReady initiative that I had invested a great deal of passion and energy into moving forward. In fact in 2010, I pitched an article idea to Maine HR Times, about the importance of programs like WorkReady, and the need for soft skills training in enhancing the skills of the state’s workforce.

Sometimes the time is perfect for you as a writer, and my article made it into the edition that was handed out to all the Maine HR Convention’s attendees that year, which really was a bonus in pulling together this article on WorkReady.

My experience and focus on attending might be a little different, as I’m not in the HR realm, per se, but tend to connect with many Maine businesses through the HR, or hiring function. And following a few of these tips might help a few newbies attending their very first convention, or even some of the seasoned HR vets.

The following are just a few of my highlights and things I am focused on each year when I make the trip down the coast.

  • Network like crazy

I like to think of myself as an experienced networker. When I attend any conference, or even a business-after-hours event, my goal is to meet new people and have a few key conversations.

Networking sometimes means getting outside your comfort zone. Rather than sit with the same people you see every day at work, or even HR Chapter members, make a point to sit at a table of strangers. It’s a great way to meet new people and learn about other businesses. Even better, you often meet new friends that become next year’s “old” friends. This has happened for me each and every year that I’ve attended.

  •       Make sure you attend some of the great breakout sessions

It’s tempting to check emails, or try to put out fires back at the office. For some, the way to do this is by cutting out of workshops or breakouts that they signed up for; don’t do it. Bud, Heather, DJ, and the gang at Northern New England Law Publishers always gather great presenters for their various breakout sessions. Even for a non-HR guy like me, I always come away with new information, like last year, when I attended a valuable breakout on social media and legal implications related to the use of it in the workplace. This information became especially helpful a few months later when I landed some social media consulting and was able to draw on the materials and others that came from this workshop. 

  • Spend time with the rock stars

 Not only does Northern New England Law Publishers put on great workshops, but I’m amazed at the A-list presenters that they bring to Rockport year after year as keynote speakers. I’ve heard speakers like Ryan Estis, Laurie Ruettimann, as well as Cy Wakemen (speaking again this year); additionally, Pamela Green will be keynoting, as well as the Honorable George Mitchell, who is Friday’s noontime keynote speaker.

What I have enjoyed each year I’ve attended is connecting with some of these speakers, like I did with Ryan Estis both times I heard his speak in 20009 and 2010. I made a point of introducing myself to Laurie Ruettimann last year, also.

 These are speakers that command national attention, so don’t oversleep, or decide to forego the opportunity to hear these great presenters.

  • Attend some of the after-hours events

Each year I’ve attended, I made sure to attend one of the chapter dinners that happen on Tuesday night. These afford great opportunities to meet new people, and they’re a little less harried, as the dinners are relaxed and always fun. 

  • Engage with social media

A few years ago, Ryan Estis surveyed the room to assess how many people were engaged with social media. While most of the attendees were using Facebook, and some were using Linkedin, and more are now, Twitter usage lagged then and it still lags. As a someone who has been engaged via Twitter for a couple of years, I’m happy to report that we have a #hashtag again this year, which is #MEHRC2013.

 Make sure you tag your tweets with the hashtag so everyone can see what’s being tweeted about. And if you don’t have a clue about Twitter, come see me, or another Twitter aficionado, Jeremey Haskell, of In fact, Jeremy is usually orchestrating the social media charge, including maintaining the convention’s YouTube channel.

Always follow-up with contacts you make at the convention

Networking is only as good as your follow-up skills. If you make a point of passing out your business card and collecting those of other attendees, make a point of dropping them a line within a week. This is good practice for any networking that you do. If you can follow-up sooner, definitely make a point of doing so.

There’s no shortage of things to do each and every day. While the points above relate very much to the nuts and bolts stuff, I’ll add a few more personal tips that I always incorporate.

  • Try to eat as healthy as you can

  • Limit Your Drinking

  • Work Some Exercise Into Your Routine

I’m into health and fitness, but I also recognize that for many, this a chance to get away from the office and let their hair down a bit.

Because you’ll do a lot of sitting each day, it’s advisable to spend some time getting the blood flowing. Whether it’s running, taking a brisk morning power walk, or hitting one of the early morning exercise sessions, try to get out and move a bit.

I’m training for a sprint triathlon in June, so I’ll be running and swimming each morning before starting my convention activities. That way, when I allow myself a treat or two, I won’t feel guilty.

Making sure you get the most out of a convention or conference takes a little advance planning. However, if you plan well, you’ll arrive back at work glad you attended, with new tips to employ, and a maybe even some new tricks up your sleeve, as well as some new friends.

One thought on “Getting the Most Out of Your Convention Experience

  1. HR or not, that is actually very good guidance for getting the most out of any conference, in a nicely bullet-ized list.

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