Conferences are key opportunities to reconnect with colleagues and to foster new relationships. With all the effort it takes to cover your duties in the office, far too many professionals neglect to adequately prepare for the conference itself. A conference is not a vacation, but rather a chance to work in a fresh and different way, rekindling your creativity and strengthening your network. Here are three ways to take full advantage of this opportunity.

1. Plan ahead. Post on LinkedIn and Twitter that you’ll be at the conference. Reach out to others you know will be in attendance. Plan to attend breakout sessions with colleagues or potential collaborators. The intentionality you show creates more meaningful and qualitative points of connections.

2. Come prepared. Don’t view a conference as a break to enjoy, but a task—albeit an enjoyable one—to execute. Have more of your business cards than you expect to need. Arrive early to sessions to have plenty of time to mingle and catch up with others. Keep the business cards you collect in a designated spot and write notes on them as needed to jog your memory later.

3. Follow up. Your conference experience will not gain you anything if you leave it at the conference. Send an email expressing how good it was to see each other. Share any resources you promised. Initiate contact to begin the project you discussed. Continue the momentum the conference began and your network will flourish. 

What conferences will you be attending this year? Let us know so that we can connect.