Rebecca Johnson: Meeting Mastery

Management advice from Rebecca Johnson

10 ways to make the most of your time before, during and after a conference

This article originally appeared in the April 2016 edition of INVISION.

Before the conference

Contact your VIPs. A conference is the perfect opportunity to build stronger relationships. Reach out to friends, clients and vendors to schedule a meal, coffee or time to view new products. Don’t delay; their calendars are probably filling up as fast as yours.

Plan the rest of your time. Study the conference guide and highlight all the activities, classes and exhibits that you want to attend. Add times and locations to your mobile calendar. Don’t forget to schedule some rest!

Pack smart. Take your most comfortable business and business casual clothes. Think layers, since room temperatures vary. You will walk a lot, so avoid the urge to wear your cutest high heels.

Stock up on business cards. Even though we now live in a “paperless” culture, business card passing is socially correct. Don’t be embarrassed when someone hands you their card and you have nothing to return.

At the conference

Put the phone away. You’re here to meet people! You don’t have to disconnect completely, but keep one-on-one interaction your No. 1 priority.

Carry a backpack. It’s the perfect companion for the exhibit hall, since you’ll be collecting a lot of information. Stock your backpack with hand sanitizer, lotion, protein bars, a bottle of water, Tylenol and a few bandages for blisters.

Divide and conquer. If you are at the conference with colleagues, you will get more bang for your buck if each person attends different courses. Plan to share what you’ve learned on the way home, or once you’re back at the office.

Ask questions. It’s the best way to network at a social event, since people enjoy talking about themselves. “What course has been your favorite so far?” or “Tell me about your practice” are good questions. Listen more than you talk.

After the conference

Say thank you. Did someone pay your way to attend the conference? That means they’ve invested in you, so a handwritten “thank-you” is in order.

Follow up. Reach out to everyone that you met, either by email or social media such as LinkedIn, to let them know that you enjoyed seeing them — and how happy you are to have them in your network.

REBECCA JOHNSON is an enthusiastic and motivational ophthalmic staff trainer, a nationally recognized speaker and author, and executive director of GPN. Her honors include the AOA Paraoptometric Special Service Award and VisionMonday’s “Most Influential Women in Optical.” Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..