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How to get the most out of attending conferences - before, during and after

What is a good conference and how do you plan your day? How do you get the most out of a conference to avoid wasting your time - or money? Here are 5 useful tips for before, during and after your next conference.

Do you love or hate attending conferences? 

Like most people, you've probably experienced conferences where you feel both wasting your time - and your money. Or - even if your notebook is full of great ideas, notes, names of people you met at the last conference - you suffer from 'conference overload'. How do you use all the new information or inspiration you've got?

Welfare Tech asked two experienced conference attendees and planners:

  1. What does a GOOD conference contain?
  2. Do you have a strategy - how do you plan your participation?
  3. How do you use the new knowledge/relationships you gained on the day?
  4. How do you get the most out of (the money/time) attending a conference?
  5. Do you have recurring conferences/must-go-to conferences this year / next year?

Professional content – to-go

Michaela Andersen, Director of WHINN - Week of Health and INNovation:

- A good conference contains professional content that gives me some value I can bring back home. Something that I can use and implement in my everyday life: New knowledge or new tools. What's also important is that there are other attendees I can network with.

- Before I sign up for a conference, I research the program and look for what to expect and who the target audience is. A week before, I plan which sessions/tracks I want to attend. Also whether there are side events or receptions, matchmaking or exhibitions. Then I plan my program - and who I should possibly talk to.

- If I get new relations in my network - and within geographical reach - then I either contact them or they contact me. We arrange a coffee meeting. And in terms of implementing new knowledge: Find a good online tool that can help you structure your conference lists and notes.

(See examples for online planning tools at the end of this article)

Michaela Andersen recommends the following upcoming conferences:

  • Meeting & Event Fair in Copenhagen (March 2020)
  • WHINN in Odense (November 19 - 21, 2019)

Matchmaking and updating knowledge

Karen Lindegaard, Senior Consultant at Welfare Tech, often attends Danish and international cluster conferences:

- For a good conference, it’s essential with a well-planned program and presenters who contribute with their knowledge. At the end of the day, you think: That was exciting and interesting information, i.e. new statistics or new ways of thinking.

- It’s important with (long) breaks where you have time to network. At the conferences I attend, there are often people I have to work with later on. At the larger conferences, it’s nice with matchmaking where the meetings are arranged. It makes it easier to choose who to meet in advance. For people having a hard time with large crowds and talking to new people, matchmaking is a really good tool.

- I've rarely prepared for a conference - because I don't have time for it. But if there’s matchmaking, then I always prepare: whom you have the opportunity to arrange meetings in advance and plan what you want to achieve with the meeting.

- I also think of a conference as an upgrade of knowledge - a form of further education. As a cluster, we at Welfare Tech, also need to keep up with the latest agenda within different areas. And a quick way to get around that is to attend conferences. As an attendee, I think it is important for others in the cluster to share the knowledge I have gained. So that's why I often write an article that is accessible to anyone who might be interested in reading it. Focusing on what I think was most important or interesting from that particular conference.

- I am very focused on following up on the people I have met and talked to at a conference concerning our mission. All of the international partners we have in the cluster, I have met in connection with conferences.

- I almost always attend Cluster-to-Cluster conferences. But it’s difficult to attend every conference because it’s very time-consuming. So rather attend a few, but relevant conferences.

3 things you can do for your next conference

  1. Make an appointment in advance with someone attending (get the participation list from the organizer and/or ask potential partners if they want to meet at the event).
  2. Greet the person next to you and ask what they do and where they come from (rather than just telling what you do).
  3. Ask questions in plenary where you present yourself with name, title, organization (so the others know where you come from and what you work with). 

Online planning tools 

Upcoming international conferences (Northern Europe)

  1. september 2019: Rehacare International, Düsseldorf, Tyskland
  2. september 2019: AAL Forum 2019, Aarhus, Denmark
  3. - 21. november 2019: WHINN, Odense, Denmark
  4. november 2019: EHiN, Oslo, Norway
  5. november 2019: Medica, Düsseldorf, Germany

Photo: Ard Jongsma/WHINN

Supported by

Welfare Tech is​ co-financed by the Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science and The European Regional Development Fund.

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