This month I will be heading to Boston for Skyword’s Forward 2018 conference. I’m looking forward to it for many reasons. For starters, I’ll finally get a chance to meet the fantastic colleagues I’ve been collaborating with for the past several years face to face. I’ll also be participating in Skyword’s Contributor Advisory Panel (CAP), which I joined last year, in person. And, while at the conference, I’ll be working on an intriguing assignment for Skyword’s newsletter, The Content Standard, about the content marketing technology vision that will be unveiled there.
Aside from those professional motivations, I’m also looking forward to returning to my native Commonwealth for a short spell (although I’m a longtime New York resident, I’m originally from Western Massachusetts). While there, I’m hoping to reconnect with some longtime friends who live in the Hub over a pint or two. My only regret is that the Red Sox won’t be in town while I’m visiting, so sadly there won’t be a trip to Fenway in the cards this time around. I can’t really complain, though, because I’ve already logged some fantastic memories there.
This will be my first conference in several years, though in an earlier era of my professional life I often attended them. While a nonprofit IT Director, I was a frequent participant, group leader, and presenter at the annual NTEN conference. My later role as Managing Editor of a startup print magazine took me to SXSW, DEMO Africa in Nairobi, and DEMO Asia in Singapore.
Back then, I often felt overwhelmed by the ocean of people and massive array of sessions from which to pick. I always felt that I was somehow doing conferences ‘wrong,’ failing to maximize the opportunities that they offered. But now that I’ve come to embrace the fact that I am an introvert (which I’d like to gently remind my extroverted friends is not at all the same thing as being shy or antisocial), I believe the secret to a productive conference lies in preparing accordingly.
Six ways I’m preparing for the Forward 2018 conference
With that in mind, I’m engaging in the following pre-conference preparation steps to make sure I get the most out of this year’s Forward conference. If you’re an introvert as well, you may find them helpful. And if there are other forms of preparation that you find beneficial and don’t see here, let me know! I’d be curious to hear other people’s tips and tricks for approaching these events.
- Setting clear goals. Knowing your goals for a conference makes all the difference. In my early days at NTEN, I often wanted to exchange best practices with fellow IT Directors. Now, as a writer, I’m aiming to deepen my contacts in my field, keep abreast of content marketing trends, and make meaningful connections with my Skyword colleagues in person.
- Building in some quiet time. Sometimes it’s nice to have a little downtime before the main event kicks off, particularly if you’re in a city that you love and know well. So, I’m making my way to Boston a touch early in order to give myself a little buffer time and enjoy the sights and experiences there before the conference starts.
- Connecting with other conference goers on social media. Social media aficionados tend to be some of the more enthusiastic conference goers out there, so I’ve been keeping an eye on our conference hashtag to see if there are worthwhile connections to be made in advance. I also created a Twitter list of people whose tweets I’d like to follow during the conference, which will help me keep tabs on what’s going on while I’m there.
- Updating my digital profiles and portfolios. Since I’m so focused on my writing work during the year, it’s easy to forget that my LinkedIn profile or the biography on my website might need a touch-up. I’ve revisited them in advance of the conference to make sure they tell an up to date, compelling story about my professional experience and interests.
- Researching the conference online. In addition to browsing the conference agenda, I’ve also set up a Google news alert for ‘skyword,’ which sends new articles about the conference to my inbox every few days or so. This has helped me get a feel for what to expect at the conference.
- Prepping my packing list. It’s never fun to arrive at a conference only to realize that you left your business cards at home (yup, that happened to me once). Before I travel, I pop open a ready-made packing list that I keep on file. As I remember things I need to bring, like my portable Wi-Fi device or snacks for the journey, I add them to the list.
I expect that Forward will be an entirely different experience compared to the conferences I’ve attended in the past. For one thing, it’s a different industry altogether—content marketing as opposed to nonprofit technology or digital startups. It will also be the first conference I’ve attended as a solo entrepreneur, representing my business. Thankfully, with a little bit of advance preparation, I expect this will be my most productive and beneficial conference experience yet. Can’t wait to start shipping up to Boston!