As with most endeavors, planning and preparation are crucial to maximizing your experience at a conference.

This includes all aspects of the event—the venue, the hotel, your travel, the various activities and sessions that are available, the people you’d like to meet, etc. What follows are three tips for planning and preparing for your next industry conference or convention:

#1 – Conduct a small self-inventory of your motivations for attending.

What’s the number-one thing you hope to achieve or gain? Do you wish to expand your professional network of contacts and acquaintances? Is there some specific knowledge you’re hoping to pick up while you’re there? Or is it something else?

#2 – Plan which specific sessions you want to attend.

Consult the conference agenda and select those that interest you. In addition to the agenda, a list of those people attending the conference might be made available. This includes those who are making presentations at the event. If there are one or two people attending the conference you’d like to meet, contact them in advance and invite them to lunch, dinner, or a cup of coffee at a particular time. This one-on-one interaction will allow you to learn from them, network with them, and share or exchange ideas with them.

#3 – Pay attention to the details.

Your attention to these details will help to free up your time once you arrive at the event. Below is a list of the most pressing ones you should consider.

  • Travel – Make your flight plans early and be as thorough as possible if you don’t want any last-second surprises. And book your hotel room as soon as you can, especially if the event is being held on a weekend.

  • The hotel – Research the facility, including maps and floor plans, in order to familiarize yourself with it beforehand. This will help to ensure that you arrive at your sessions promptly. That way, you won’t run the risk of the sessions filling up before you get there.

  • Business cards – These are imperative. The last thing you want to do is run out at some point. Bring so many cards that you’re sure you’ll still have some at the end of the conference.

  • Comfortable shoes – You’ll be walking, walking, and then after that, you’ll do some more walking.

  • The venue—More than likely, the conference will be held in a city that offers an array of attractive entertainment options. These options provide excellent opportunities for you to further network with individuals during “down time” (i.e., during hours when the conference is not being conducted.) More information might be provided in your conference packet, if one is supplied.

Continuous training (including training at a conference) is a must in any profession. Think of it as an investment – an investment in the future of your career.