How to Attend an Event as an Event Planner

By Kristi Porter, January 8, 2015

I love attending conferences and events, whether it’s for my job or my own interests, so it makes perfect sense that I work on one full-time. I get a thrill from the atmosphere; exposure to new speakers, thoughts and authors; and quick education. Not all event planners have the time, resources or desire to attend a lot of outside events; however, I’ve found it well worth the effort on both a personal and professional level. Some of my greatest moments of inspiration have come through attending other events. Here are a few tips, from one planner to another, on how to be an attendee when you’re used to being on the other side of things.

Be open-minded.
Realize you don’t have all the answers. I’ve met planners who don’t attend other conferences because they think theirs is the best or they know all there is to know. This simply isn’t true. Leaders are learners. Don’t just show up, but show up with a teachable attitude.

Recognize that ideas are everywhere.
The natural things to look at are speakers, exhibits and sponsors, but it’s important to look at every detail of an event, not only for inspiration but also to find a better way of doing things. This includes pre-event communication and logistics. Planners, as much as anyone, know details count, and we are well-equipped to see an event holistically. There are times you may be confirmed in what you’re doing, and times you see an opportunity to try something new. Without taking notice of each nuance, you may miss a moment of inspiration.

Think outside the box.
Remember these conferences and events are far more than what happens between the walls that house them. We’re all busy and may not have the time to attend another event, but that doesn’t mean we can’t participate. Several of the events I “attend” each year are online-only, or are live streamed. And, of course, there are many ways to get involved via social media. Even if you don’t have a continuing education budget, you can still take part in online events and follow hashtags.

Take time to reflect on notes and photos.
You may not get a lightning bolt epiphany on-site. Be sure to record your experience to the best of your ability, including notes and photos. I have a personal blog, so I handwrite my notes and then retype them for my blog. This helps me to reflect on the message and speaker at least twice. Better yet, talk through your experience with someone else. This will help you recall the information in greater detail.

Start small.
I attend probably half a dozen outside events annually. Some of them I’ve attended for years, and others are new or rotate in and out of my calendar. The point is to get started. Look at your schedule and think about events that have piqued your curiosity in the past, then promise yourself to pick at least one next year. Give yourself the opportunity to revel in someone else’s hard work and learn something new while you’re at it.

Kristi Porter is event marketing director for Orange Conference. She previously worked as a freelance writer, communications manager and hospitality PR specialist. Contact her at kporter@rethinkgroup.org.

Photo credit: Spencer Combs

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