1. Remember that you’re going for three reasons: learning, networking and having fun. Plan on doing all three.
2. Think about what you want to get out of the conference, then set some simple goals. The best way to soak up as much as possible is to be ready to take it all in.
3. Bring the essentials:
Plenty of business cards. Many people forget to bring enough.
An extra bag or suitcase to lug home all the stuff that you pick up in the conference bookstore and resource center.
4. Much of the great ideas and information you’ll pick up at a conference will be outside the structured sessions, so:
Take advantage of after-hours sessions, breakfast roundtables, lunch groups, etc. Many people find these the most insightful and valuable of their conference experiences.
Visit the resource center. You’ll find lots of ideas and make great contacts.
Explore outside the hotel. You’re all pumped up about design, so go out and see the sights. Relish the details and appreciate what makes the city wonderful.
5. Two handy uses for conference badges:
To pretend you know someone you’ve never met. Good icebreaker. Just don’t take it too far.
To help you remember a name you’ve forgotten. Always a lifesaver.
6. Don’t be afraid to approach speakers; that’s what they’re there for.
7. Don’t sit in the corner. This is the perfect time to come out of your shell and meet new people who are creative, fun and inspiring. Be courageous.
8. Prepare for your conversations with designers you’ve never met before:
Have answers ready for the common questions: "What kind of work do you do?" "What are some of the great things you’ve seen lately?"
Don’t dominate conversations. And don’t spend the week giving people your resume.
9. Don’t harp on bad sessions. You may go to one or two duds. Forget them and move on.
10. When you get home, keep something from the conference on your desk. It’ll help you retain that inspiration and remind you to keep in touch with the people you met and the ideas you encountered.