by Catherine L. Tully
Whether you are attending your first dance conference ever–or your twentieth, there are certain things you can do to help maximize the time you spend there. We have assembled a list of ten that we think are pretty important, but we’re also pretty sure that readers will have more to add…
Feel free to leave a comment for us on anything you have found to be useful. We’d love to hear from you! In the meantime, take a look at these as you begin to map out your schedule for the coming year…
Create your own plan
No matter what the dance conference is you are attending, there is a reason why you are going to that particular one. Keep your goals in mind when you are planning what sessions you are going to attend. And don’t feel like you have to do it all!
Take a good look at the sessions that are offered on the web and map out a plan for what you’d like to see/experience. Customize your schedule so that you can get the most out of the time you spend there. Having a plan is half the battle.
Try to stay flexible. Keep in mind that once you get to the conference you may need to alter your schedule depending on what comes up.
Business cards aren’t used that often anymore, but conferences are the perfect place for them. Bring a big stack of cards with you and pass them out whenever you can. Make sure your social media information is on them (if applicable) as well as your contact info.
As you get cards from other people, jot down any information you can that will help you remember who that person is and why you might want to follow up with them. It will be really hard to remember these things later—especially after meeting lots of people and getting lots of cards.
Plan some meetings ahead of time
Some dance conferences, such as Dance USA, list the people who will be attending on their website, while others do not. If you have access to such a list, take advantage of it and see if you can contact some people ahead of time to set up a coffee or a quick meeting during the conference run.
If you don’t have that type of info ahead of time, you can always utilize your social media channels or send out a few e-mails to find out who will be going. This is another great way to get a few appointments on the books ahead of time.
Leave gaps in your schedule
While setting up some meetings prior to the conference is smart, you’ll also want to be sure to leave some room for those people that just pop up on your radar while you’re there. You may meet some interesting people that you’d like to get to know better and you will want to have a little time to spend with them too.
Practice your intro
You are going to introduce yourself what seems like a thousand times at a dance conference. It helps to practice what you are going to say. Have an “elevator speech” ready—something not too long, but that tells people who you are, what you do and why you are there.
It may seem a little silly to practice saying this type of thing, but meeting people at events such as these can be a little awkward. It helps if you already know what you are going to say.
Don’t wait for people to come up to you! Remember that one of the main reasons people go to dance conferences is to meet and connect with others in the field. If you see someone standing alone or eating by themselves, why not walk up and introduce yourself? You will probably find that they are relieved to have someone to talk to—plus you will have a chance to practice your intro!
Most dance conferences offer more sessions and activities than you could possibly attend. Don’t push yourself so hard that you wind up exhausted. Schedule in a little down time to just unwind, journal, exercise or even sleep a bit. Little breaks in the day can help you feel fresh and ready to network.
Tap in to technology
If the dance conference has an app (which some of them now do—NDEO and Dance USA are two examples), use it! You don’t have to be super tech-savvy to do this, and it can be nice to have the schedule and updates coming right to your phone instead of having to track them down.
Join the conversation online
Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are other ways to stay connected. Post some of your photos up and share some thoughts on what is going on. These are also great tools to what other people are saying about the conference.
See if there is a hashtag (#) the conference is utilizing on Twitter and use it to stay on top of the latest happenings. Again, you don’t have to be an expert to do any of this—and it can even be a lot of fun!
Process on the plane
If you take a flight to get to the conference, use it to go over the schedule and mark sessions you are interested in attending if you haven’t already done so.
On the way home you can use the time to jot down some notes about things you want to follow up on and highlight people you want to connect with once you return. It’s a great use of your time in the air and you will still be able to recall events, sessions and people much better now than once you get home and are slammed back into the usual routine.
Dance conferences can be a wonderful way to learn from others in the field, and they provide a wonderful opportunity for networking. Employ some of these tips when you go and you will be well on your way to a fulfilling experience!
Not sure what conferences are out there? Here’s a brief list of some that you may want to consider…