Professional nursing conferences provide extensive learning and networking opportunities. These informative and inspiring gatherings can also feel intimidating. Make your first—or next conference—an enjoyable and productive experience with these 12 tips:

1. Plan ahead.

Register early and take advantage of discounts and the opportunity to book a room where the conference is held. Being in the same space as speakers and panelists increases the possibility of meeting them and making new connections.

2. Define your goals.

Do you want to pick up best practice recommendations, learn about cutting-edge innovations, earn continuing education hours, or chat with a career-boosting contact? Maybe you want to meet a few Facebook friends in person. It’s important to arrive with clear objectives.

3. Review the schedule.

Mark the sessions you want to attend, especially those offered at the same time. Formulate a game plan. Offer to swap notes with friends attending the other panels. Don’t know anyone going? Make it a point to meet people at the conference and share information.

4. Get registration materials ASAP.

Skip long registration lines by arriving early. Familiarize yourself with the convention space and layout of rooms. Don’t be the person looking for a session that started 10 minutes ago at the other end of the building.

5. Take time to reflect.

Information overload is real. Organize thoughts, notes, handouts, and other materials to share what you learned with your colleagues back home.

 6. Pack must-haves.

A hectic schedule may keep you from returning to your hotel room to gargle before meeting someone. Keep gum, mints, and other grooming essentials on you.

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7. Network.

Connect with the best and brightest colleagues and thought leaders from across the nation, and depending on the event, from around the world. You never know who you will meet to help advance your career.

8. Practice opening lines.

Easily start conversations with anyone (looking as awkward as you feel) with time-tested questions that include:

  • Is this your first time at this conference?
  • What are your highlights so far?
  • Which sessions are you most excited about? (Note taker alert: Hopefully the same ones you can’t attend.)

9. Connect with social media. 

Stay in contact with new connections through LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Include in your message a reminder of where you met and thank your new connections for speaking with you.

10. Stay current.

Sessions present the latest in technology, research, and procedures in nursing practice. By attending, you increase your knowledge and value.

11. Visit the exhibit hall.

In one spot, view the latest products, services, and equipment to improve patient outcomes. Meet exhibitors and representatives from the colleges and universities and nursing organizations and pick up some swag.

12. Pursue continuing education.

Take advantage of the opportunity to earn continuing nursing education (CNE) credit required to renew your license,take certification exams or attend sessions to prepare for them.

A conference is a great opportunity for professional development and for providing an overall sense of rejuvenation. Maximize your experience with preparation.

Robin Farmer
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