Your Guide to Surviving (Thriving!) at a Conference

Advancement professionals are always willing to share what they’re doing with each other. That’s one of the best things about this industry. We don’t compete; we work together to help each other succeed. This kind of teamwork and info-sharing makes conferences especially valuable learning opportunities, no matter how long you’ve been in the nonprofit world.

As you get ready for your next conference (or if you’re heading to your first), here’s an infographic and tips for getting the most out of the experience.


1. Get Sleep

Seriously. You go to a conference to recharge your batteries, and you come out excited about going back to the office to implement new ideas. But that won’t happen if you’re wiped out. Take the opportunity to wind down and relax. Get a good night’s sleep, don’t be afraid to take a nap during an afternoon break, and rest up so you can be present and prepared to learn.

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Leave a Session

Your time is valuable—and conferences aren’t cheap. In the rare occasion you run into a session that isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, don’t be afraid to duck out and try another one. Ultimately, every conference is about you and what you get out of it. Make the most of every minute.

3. Meet People

When you attend a conference, you gain access to a tremendous resource: brain power. This is a chance to meet speakers, grab coffee with another attendee, or talk through a nagging problem at a roundtable discussion. So shake hands, trade business cards, make small talk, chat with speakers in between sessions, and follow up with the people you met when you get home.

4. Create A To-Do List

In two or three days, you’re going to hear a lot of great ideas. It’s good to take notes throughout, but it’s also helpful to keep a running list of action items that you’ve picked up throughout the conference. This helps organize key takeaways and gives you a cheat sheet of things to implement, research, or follow up on when you’re back in the office.

5. Share What You Learned

The week after attending a conference, create a one-sheet of takeaways or a short presentation for your team and your supervisor. This does three things: It helps justify the expense of the conference to your boss, extends the impact of what you learned, and helps get everyone excited about trying something new. Sharing is caring!

So there you go. You know everything you need to crush your next conference experience. And if you’re looking for a great opportunity to learn from some of the best and brightest in the nonprofit and for-profit worlds, check out EverTrue’s conference on advancement innovation, Raise 2016, coming to Boston July 28-29.

Mike Nagel is the Associate Director for Advancement Communications at Phillips Exeter Academy. He spends his time managing and creating stories for PEA’s social media, alumni website, email marketing campaigns, and other mostly-digital play spaces. Say hi on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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