With so many conferences going on at any given time, chances are, your nonprofit will make an appearance at a few pretty soon.
If you are, you’ll need to start preparing. Nonprofit conferences can be small and last only one day or span the course of a week with thousands of nonprofit professionals.
Whichever kind of conference you plan on going to, there are a few tips that can help you make the most of your conference experience.
Here, we’ll outline some strategies to use before, during, and after your next nonprofit conference.
Before the Nonprofit Conference
1. Do some research.
Not researching before you go to a nonprofit conference is like going to a football game without knowing who’s playing. Sure, you’ll enjoy the food and the company, but you won’t remember the main event once you leave.
You have to walk through the doors of the conference venue with confidence that your networking efforts will not be squandered.
The best way to avoid this pitfall is to read up on the conference beforehand. Most conference websites will have information about the speakers and sessions and may post a list of confirmed attendees.
Knowing which sessions will be the most helpful is crucial for your conference success. If you need help writing mission statements, for instance, do some digging to see if there will be any sessions about crafting them.
You can find out which sessions and events you want and need to attend and determine who you should spend time talking to and networking with.
2. Use social media.
Many conferences have Facebook pages and Twitter handles with corresponding hashtags that allow attendees to connect before the conference even starts!
Make use of these social channels and start getting to know your fellow conference participants before you ever meet face to face.
You can get advice from veteran conference attendees and ask questions in a more informal setting before the conference gets underway. Social media is also a great way to stay connected during the conference.
During the Nonprofit Conference
1. Ask to volunteer.
Many conferences already have a dedicated staff that takes care of registration, speaker introductions, and other logistics. But even the most well-run conference can use a helping hand every now and then.
Just like your nonprofit needs volunteers to properly carry out projects and fundraisers, conferences need volunteers to make operations run a bit more smoothly.
Not only will you get the chance to get a behind-the-scenes view of the conference, you might also score VIP passes to exclusive events.
Volunteering at a conference allows you to learn more and meet with the people who made the conference possible. You might even make some valuable connections!
2. Use your research to network effectively.
Remember all that research you did before the conference? Now’s the time to put it to work!
Spread out your time evenly among different sessions and events. Make sure that you talk to as many people as possible and start forming meaningful relationships.
Don’t just hand people your business card and walk away.
Avoid burning yourself out by networking, though. If you find yourself nodding off during a session or forgetting your own name during a conversation with a colleague, take a break, a walk, or a nap.
After the Nonprofit Conference
1. Stay connected.
You’ll want to stay in touch with all of the people you met during the conference.
Share contact information and stay connected with the individuals who gave you great advice and helped you hone your skills.
Remain engaged with the conference host as well. Like their page on Facebook and follow them on Twitter to stay up to date with information about next year’s conference!
2. Get ready for another conference.
And speaking of next year, make sure you’re getting prepared for the next conference.
Most conferences are held once or twice a year. If you particularly enjoyed your conference experience, sign up for another one!
Additionally, if you think that you could speak or present at a conference, look into that opportunity.
If you’re considered the fundraising expert at your academic institution or the social media marketing guru at your organization, consider submitting a paper or presentation to a corresponding conference.
Make sure that you plan beforehand, network effectively during, and stay connected after your next conference. Implementing these six tips will be the key to your having a successful conference experience.