You are on the flight back from your latest conference and in next few days as you tally your receipts, the question comes up over and over again, “What did I gain from this? What take-aways am I bringing into my work?”

My last conference was the Professional Outdoor Media Association conference (POMA) held in Knoxville, Tenn and a room full of outdoor professionals can be intimidating, but I tried to keep to my intentions, or goals, for the trip. Frankly, before you even head out for a conference you should have goals.  They might change as you engage during the trip and finally, there are goals afterward too.

If you are attending a conference in the near future, you might gleam insights from my list of “must-dos”

Did you know Knoxville is home to the last World's Fair held in 1982? This is the Sunsphere from that fair.

Did you know Knoxville is home to the last World’s Fair held in 1982? This is the Sunsphere from that fair.


  • What do you want to gain? New business? Reconnections? Assignments? Think very clearly of what you want to gain from the trip. If you just say “oh, I’m sure something will come up” and leave it to the conference gods, you are not giving yourself the full benefit.
  • With those goals or tasks, in mind, how are you going to accomplish them? Perhaps your goal is to get assignments. Then your action items would be 1. Introduce myself to at least 5 editors 2. Have samples ready to show 3. Speak up during educational sessions so people know I exist.

During the Trip

  • Sometimes my goals and action items change while I’m at the conference based upon feedback from others and what I’v learned. You might have to re-evaluate if you find when talking to editors, they don’t have space for your kind of work.
  • Keep a positive head on your shoulders. Some conferences reenergize and engage you – some will leave you thinking, “These people are way smarter than me – why am I here?” The point is to NOT let that get you down. You have special skills and unique set of qualities that brought you there, even if you feel like you are “faking it until you make it.”
I visited the Smokey Mountain National Park while in the area - the most visited park in the U.S.

I visited the Smokey Mountain National Park while in the area – the most visited park in the U.S.

After the Trip

  • FOLLOW UP!! Everyone will be busy catching up on emails, but you have to get in there. One unique tactic I learned while attending the SHOT Show in Vegas was an editor would buy postcards in the airport gift shop and write out a “thank you” at the airport right then and there. His card probably got to the contact’s desk before the contact did!
  • Find ways to stay in touch with people – perhaps by sending them an article on that kayaking adventure we were talking about, or even asking them to guest post on your blog or site.
  • Don’t just focus on the top names or executives. Send notes to all you touched base with – you never know when someone lower level is going to move up in the world and trust me – this industry is TIGHT.

These may seem like “well, duh Michelle!” but honestly, of the 300 writers and professionals that attended that conference, I received very few “nice meeting you!” emails or notes when I got back to the office. I don’t feel bad about it, but I think its very telling about the world we live in now. Attention to the small things in life still matter.


  1. Sue bookhout on April 4, 2014 at 5:36 am

    Great post Michelle. Well said. I did some follow ups, but got sidetracked by other. Your post reminded me to be sure to finish my list. It’s worth it considering what I spent on the conference.

  2. Katie on April 4, 2014 at 9:44 am

    I’m stealing the postcard tip! Good call!

  3. James Braaten on April 4, 2014 at 11:28 am

    Very well stated, Michelle! I believe how a person conducts themselves AFTER meeting a new contact says as much, if not more, than how they were perceived during the face-to-face encounter. It’s the little things like sending a follow-up note that sets you apart from the rest of the pack.