The beginning of the year brings fresh starts. When setting intentions for the year, consider including attendance to at least one in-person conference. While some are still unable to travel for various reasons, and professional development budgets may not be what they were pre-COVID, many are itching to get out of their offices and Zoom screens. Below are five tips to keep in mind as you work to take advantage of attendance at an in-person conference.
1. Do Your Homework
Take your time to find an in-person conference that fits your needs. Ask others who may have attended before to find out more about the “vibe” of that particular meeting. Does it fit your interests? Can you make meaningful connections? Does the location work for you? And, once you have settled on a conference, see what you can find online before you go. Is there a list of attendees you can spend time looking at to identify people you would love to connect with? Print out the agenda and plan your days so that you can avoid scheduling any conflicting events. Set your intentions for what you would like to get out of your experience.
2. Be Willing to Be Vulnerable and Go First
Regardless of how long we’ve been in practice, jumping into a new space can be uncomfortable. Be willing to get out of your comfort zone and meet new people. Go to that dinner even though you don’t know any other attendees. Ask questions of the panelists that are weighing on your mind. Stay after a presentation to connect with the speakers. Be willing to be vulnerable and be honest about the issues you face in your practice. Often there are many others also feeling a bit out of their comfort zones. Go first. Introduce yourself. Share not only what your practice is, but who you are as a person. It is in these vulnerabilities that we are able to form connections that can last.
3. Have a Learner Mindset
Take advantage of the opportunity in front of you with a learner mindset. Even if we are deeply set in our practice area, we can always learn more. There are new trends to discover, different practice types to consider, and more to learn. Soak up the opportunity to learn. Truly listen and take notes. Avoid the temptation to power up your computer and respond to work messages. If you are willing to be present and have a learner mindset, you will take away much more from the experience.
4. Find at Least One Thing That Personally Energizes You
Burnout is a common enemy that many women in the practice of law have to intentionally work to avoid. While you are away from your office, be intentional about finding at least one activity that personally energizes you. Do you love to work out? Find time to take a jog around a new city. Do you like exploring new cities? Stay an extra day to explore the sites. Would a few hours at the spa, chatting over wine with new friends, or alone time in your room with a good book fill you up? Be purposeful about putting at least one thing on your calendar during the conference that’s just for you. It is with renewed energy that you will be able to be at your best.
5. Follow Up
Take advantage of the momentum you will feel after connecting with your colleagues in person. Ask yourself these questions: Who did I meet that I could offer to share resources with? Who should I connect with on LinkedIn or by setting a follow up meeting to discuss how we can help each other? What did I learn that I can bring back to my firm and share with others? What were my key takeaways for my own practice?
Keeping these five tips in mind will help you make the most of attendance at an in-person meeting. And, if you are looking for a good conference to attend, I highly recommend attending the Women in Litigation Conference that the ABA Section of Litigation hosts. It is always a fabulous gathering.