Get the Most Out of a Conference – #GPAConf14

Get the Most Out of a Conference – #GPAConf14

Ways to Get the Most Out of Attending the Grant Professionals Association Conference – GPAConf14

Review the Agenda & Plan  

Review the conference agenda and workshops. Find out who is presenting. If you find 2 sessions that you want to attend that are either at the same time or are similar but have different presenters do some homework and research each presenter to get to know a bit more about their perspective and experience.

What does your boss, team or others need you to bring back from the conference? Once you have picked the sessions you want to attend and the exhibitors you want to see put it into a calendar.

I make a conference specific google calendar with all of the information I need to keep on track. I sync the my conference calendar with my main google calendar,  print the conference calendar for my conference notebook and I share a link to that calendar with my team. 

You can find the #GPAConf14 information here:



Who do you want to connect with at the conference? Be intentional about making connections. How can you be intentional about connecting?  

Planned spontaneity. Connections made in the snack line, as you leave a session or even sharing an electrical outlet as you recharge yourself and your devices can be some of the most valuable opportunities to connect at a conference. Make the most of those spontaneous connections by being prepared so that when someone you want to know reaches for the same pitcher of water or sits down next to you to plug-in their phone you can make the most of the moment.

Follow the conference hashtag, groups and even pages to get a greater sense of who will be attending the conference. Make a list of the contacts you want to make. If you are like me, when you get to the conference it is all a blur of names and faces. It is helpful for you to put a person’s LinkedIn or other social media photo next to their name and any other relevant information that will help you remember your purpose in connecting. Keep that list handy throughout the conference – even during the evening events – you never know who you might bump into on the dance floor! 


Before the conference reach out to a presenter or exhibitor or a fellow attendee and let them know you will be at the conference and you want to connect. This helps people like me, who are on boards, presenting, and volunteering at the conference, to get you on their agenda. Most of my time is committed during the conference – so I appreciate making a plan for those connections well in advance. I have planned times to meet people and to connect people. For example, at the #GPAConf14, my #GrantChat co-founder, Diane H. Leonard, and I are co-hosting the Grant Chat Open House for our wonderful Grant Chat Community and we are  

Get Tools & Practice

 Get some apps and try them out. Here is a great list from the latest Inbound Conference.

Get What You Need

Why are you going to the conference?

If someone asks you, “What was the most valuable information you received or the best connection you made at the conference?” how would you want to answer that question? How will you make that answer a reality?

Take a moment, as you review the conference agenda, conference attendees, exhibitors and speakers, to identify people and topics that could make the greatest impact for your endeavors.

Write it down. Make a list of potential connections and why they would be good connections. Make a list of presentations that you would want to attend and why. See, by the time you get to the conference and are carrying around all that cool conference swag, it is easy to get distracted and unfocused -and go where your co-worker or friend is headed. Make a plan before the conference. Use your plan as your compass for your conference adventure. Give yourself room to have one-on-one conversations, to be spontaneous while remaining focused on getting what you need from the conference. 

Connect at Conference

As you meet people try to find out how you could help them. Ask what they want to get from the conference or what are their biggest business/career goals for the coming year and how they plan to achieve those goals? Ask them if there is anything they need help with on their path to their goals. You will be surprised at how often you can easily help someone once you know their goals. Introduce them to someone who can help them. Connect them to people on various social networks that can help. Create a reminder to follow-up to see if those connections worked and if there is more that you can do to help.

Comfortable Shoes 

You are going to want to be able to walk miles and stand for hours at conferences. Wear comfortable shoes. Even if you go out at night or attend a formal gathering during the conference – sore feet and blisters will take away from your experience, limit your willingness to participate in some activities and your aches will come across subtly in your body language as feeling uneasy. Try out new ‘comfortable’ shoes well in advance of the conference – lesson learned by yours-truly. Just because they look comfortable, are marketed as comfortable and feel comfortable when you put them on, it doesn’t mean they will feel comfortable for 2 – 12 hours.


Keep healthy snacks on hand to help you keep your energy going and reduce your temptation to have that afternoon giant chocolate chip cookie that is going to cause you to have an afternoon sugar crash. I love Kind Bars – dark chocolate nut is a favorite.  I avoid gluten and keeping gluten-free snacks on hand means I have healthy choices and I keep enough on hand to offer to people around me. This is a great way to connect to other health conscious or gluten-free conference attendees.

Follow-Up Plan

How will you follow-up with people you met at the conference?  The best way is through planned gratitude.

Bring thank you cards and a draft thank you that contains the conference details. Thank the conference planners. Thank the hotel and mention any staff that made your stay special. Thank any speakers that you found to be exceptional and tell them how their presentation will impact your work.

For those connections you made at the conference where you asked about their goals – follow-up to make the social network introductions or links to tools and websites that could help them move down their path toward their goals. Tell them you will follow-up again – and, follow-up!

If there was a presentation that you would like to use, then follow-up with the presenter to ask if you can use their materials and ideas. You can even ask if they have presentation notes that they would be willing to share with you that you, in turn, could make your own.

Create a presentation for your staff, office, client or GPA chapter that highlights what you learned, key trends discussed at the conference and include links, resources and handouts.

Thank your boss for making it possible for you to attend. Give her specific examples of the return on your organization’s investment. If you are a business owner – thank yourself! Invest 10 minutes to thank yourself and identify key elements of your return on investment. Thanking the boss and documenting the key elements of your conference return on investment not only helps in the present (especially when the credit card bills come), it will also help to review these notes when deciding if the conference should be in the budget for the next year. 🙂

Hope to see you in Portland and on Social Media with #GPACONF14


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Rick Horton says:

    Excellent suggestions, Jo!
    Your Host Committee will also be happy to help you enjoy your time in the Rose City. Stop by our Hospitality table in the Exhibitor Space & say “hi!”

    Rick, Susan, Susy and the rest of your 2014 HC

    • Rick, Susan, Suzy – Thank you and the rest of the Host Committee for all that you have done to make the conference in Portland a reality! We will be sure to stop by your hospitality booth. We hope the 2014 HC can stop by our GPACONF14 Social Media both for some fun photos. We should work together to have a few ‘Portland Props” for our social media photo booth. See you all soo – Jo

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