Getting the Most Out of Your Government Conference Experience

Autumn is fast approaching and alongside it comes many exciting things: colorful Montana foliage, brisk nights, a new school year, new budgets, and…conferences.

In order to make the most of the bustling September conference schedule, we like to put our heads together and make a plan of attack.

Previously, we’ve talked about how conference attendees can maximize their conference experience with these five tips:

  • Navigate through the chaos.  Knowing that conferences are jam-packed with information and activities, determine a plan of action ahead of time.  List out the vendors you want to see and the seminars you want to attend ahead of time, so you don’t forget and miss out!
  • Schedule your time.  Make appointments with vendors for demos and other meetings ahead of time.  BMS is more than willing to schedule specific times for you to visit with our conference staff.  Because conference vendor exhibit schedules typically do not allow a lot of time for vendor visits, make time in your schedule for the vendors you want to meet with most. If the conference schedule isn’t conducive to having the in-depth discussion or demo that you’d like, contact our Sales team to make special arrangements for any of the conferences we are attending.
  • Reacquaint yourself with old friends and co-workers.  One of the best things about working the conference circuit is being given the opportunity to network and reconnect with others in your industry.  Teresa, a former school district clerk, for example, works the school conferences BMS attends because she not only knows so many of the attendees, she’s also keenly knowledgeable about the wants and needs of this particular group of peers.
  • Take advantage of being the customer.  Remember that vendors are there for you and your convenience, so make time to come and visit, and see what products are being offered.  We like to feel needed, so let us know we are of help to you by stopping by and saying hi.
  • Enjoy the swag.  Ok, so you probably have enough pens and flashlights to last a lifetime.  But occasionally you can score some really great things—like macadamia nut cookies.  If you are lucky enough to get one of these delicious treats, think of BMS as you bite into its amazingness later that night in your hotel room.

Whether you are an exhibitor or an attendee, it is important to stay focused on your goals and desired outcomes during your brief conference stay.  The Wyoming Association of Municipalities (WAM) recently pulled together a list of tips for successful conference attendance. They suggest maximizing your conference experience with a combination of preparation, attendance, learning, visiting, and networking1 using the following tips:

  • Prepare. Take the time to review the entire program carefully. Make notes and map out your time.
  • Attend. Plan to be at every general session and workshop. If there is more than one person in your delegation, try to get the widest possible exposure to the available programs and workshops.
  • Learn. Come with questions—what do you want to know?
  • Visit Exhibitors. Gather literature on products and services of interest to local governments. Ask questions, take notes, and allow enough time to visit all exhibitors.
  • Network. Attend all the social functions and allow time for informal discussions. Some of the best thoughts and ideas are shared at social events.
  • Continue the Education. Join Leadership Training Services (LTS) and Continuing Education Programs (CEP) where you can earn credits towards certifications.
  • Visit and Tour. Take advantage of the delegate tours. These tours can spark ideas you may be able to use in your community.

Just because the conference ends, doesn’t mean the conference is over. Upon your return home, don’t forget to share valuable contacts, information, resources, and ideas with appropriate parties. Your co-workers, council members, personnel, and officials may enjoy a summary of your findings or a written report of your experience. Not only will this provide valuable information and secure your office’s position as part of the conference circuit, it can also provide validation for the cost of the trip.

Happy Conference Going!  Hope to see you there!

Note: For a list of conferences BMS will be in attendance at, see our BMS Conference Schedule.

1. “Getting the Most Out of Your WAM Convention.” WAMNews, (May 2013), p 14.

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