How to make the most of a conference, part 2

I’m sitting in the lobby of the hotel where the Nonprofit Technology Conference will officially kick off tomorrow morning, back with more tips for conference survival and…thrival. (Did I just type that? I blame the jet lag.)

My post last week focused on what to do before you go. Here are some suggestions for what to do once you arrive.

Be realistic about email.

Think you might neglect your inbox a bit? Don’t forget to put up an out-of-office auto reply. Before the NTC, the smarties at NTEN provided boilerplate text that attendees could copy and paste into their email auto-responder (which deftly include information about the live stream of the conference). You could be cryptic, but Sarah Durham of Big Duck advocates that you share “that you’re out, when you’ll be back, and whom to contact in your absence.” And why not take the opportunity to show off your organization’s personality a little bit?

Remember who you meet.

Trish Tchume, National Director, Young Nonprofit Professionals Network:
I know this is an old trick, but I do still write a brief description about every person I meet on the back of their business card that includes where I met them, one physical detail, one professional detail, and one personal detail that will later jog my memory of who the person is. Hence my rolodex (yes, I still use one) is full of cards that say stuff like, “Chicago IS Conference, cool glasses, been at X org for 2 years, joked abt 4th season 30 Rock.”

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Not feeling a session? Put one foot in front of the other, says Amy. (Photo: CarbonNYC, Flickr/Creative Commons)

As my yoga teacher would say, “Create your own experience.”

Amy Sample Ward, Membership Director, NTEN:
Remember the law of two feet: if you’re in a session, a social event, or anywhere else and it isn’t the conversation or topic you thought it would be, feel empowered to leave and find the people and conversations you’re after. Every conference tries to cover many topics and create opportunities for all the various goals participants may have, but participants also need to feel free to make the conference what they want it to be!

Building on that, a tip from me (julia@idealist.org):
Give yourself permission to leave and breathe. I’ve arranged to meet up with an old friend in the city for dinner one night. At the end of a long day of nonprofit tech immersion, I’ll have a chance to unwind, talk about totally different subjects, and see another neighborhood. (I’ll probably forget to take off my conference name tag. She’ll probably make fun of me. I’m OK with that.)

Share power…literally.

Jereme Bivins, Social Media Manager, Foundation Center (who left this comment on our last blog post):
Running around the hotel and conference rooms all day does a number on your mobile devices, and you rarely find yourself seated next to a power outlet during the sessions. So I try to be very conscious about which devices I have on/running (vs. which I’m actually using), I optimize my devices’ power settings, and I always keep a spare charger in my bag.

Also, if you’re a super-networker, power makes friends – and not in the Machiavellian way. People with power strips, back-up batteries, iPhone/iPad chargers, etc. are always great folks to have around; so if your primary goal at a [high-tech conference like the NTC] is a ton of ‘Friend’ requests, nothing says ‘Like’ me quite like a spare laptop charger…

Keep ‘em coming!

Thanks again to everyone who contributed to this mini-series. Please keep the tips coming in the comments. And if you’re at the NTC, check out the session I’m co-hosting Tuesday, April 3 at 1:30.

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Comments (4)


  1. Idealist writes:
    April 2, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    I just realized I should have included this tip that our Facebook fan Eileen Lambert left on our wall the other day:

    “Choose well. If the topic sounds too basic, it definitely is. If the topic sounds like something you’ve never heard of or thought about, attend – that’s when you’ll learn something new and have a good, interactive conversation.” (https://www.facebook.com/Idealist)

    Excellent point. Thanks, Eileen!


  2. portrait in charcoal writes:
    April 10, 2012 at 12:05 am

    Great weblog right here! Also your site a lot up fast! What web host are you using? Can I am getting your affiliate link to your host? I wish my site loaded up as fast as yours lol


  3. […] written before on what to do before and during a conference to meet people and expand your network. But what do you after a conference to keep the […]


  4. greg boivin dmd writes:
    October 2, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    I Will have to return again whenever my course load lets up – however I am taking your Feed so i can read your web blog offline. Thanks.


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