First, let’s understand what to expect when you attend an IEEE conference.
What To Expect at an IEEE Conference
Participants attend conferences for a variety of reasons, including to learn about new technology, gain insights into industry trends, and — perhaps most importantly for those who are just starting out in their engineering careers — network with industry professionals.
It’s best if you approach the conference with an eye on all of these goals and scope out the opportunities to do just that.
IEEE conferences provide multiple formal learning opportunities, from continuing education seminars to roundtable discussions. And that’s not even counting opportunities to connect with mentors in a one-on-one setting, who can direct you to books, courses, and other materials to help you advance your knowledge — and your career.
Before you arrive, set a goal to learn something new from a technical standpoint each day, and to dig deeper into the topic when you arrive home. You should come home from a conference with a list of resources, including books, websites, courses, and even individuals, that can help you continue to learn.
We’ve spent the past two years largely secluded, relying on Zoom meetings for professional development and human connection. Now that we are out in the world and gathering in person, we have new opportunities to share ideas face-to-face.
Make it a point to catch the keynote speaker at any event you attend, as well as any roundtable discussions or panels related to your areas of interest.
Sharing ideas and learning are important elements of any technical conference. But you can also achieve these goals through virtual meetings. One thing you can’t do as easily on a Zoom call? Build relationships.
Referring to the SC22 SuperComputing conference, attendee RCS, who comes from the University of Valladolid in Spain, said, “Relationships that last over time — that’s the most valuable SC outcome.”
Birds of Feather sessions offer a non-commercial venue for conference attendees to discuss a wide range of topics that can dive deep into the technical aspects of the industry or explore social and business challenges faced by industry leaders.
Building these relationships can help your career advancement, but they will also make you feel more involved in the community and help make work more fun.
How to Get the Most out of an IEEE Conference
With all these benefits, you’ll want to be sure you get the most out of your investment in an IEEE conference. After all, you spend a lot of money and take time away from your office and family for each event.
Going in with a plan, a road map, and an idea of the outcomes you want to achieve can help you evaluate the event and your personal and career growth once you return home.
Preparation doesn’t just mean tossing business cards into your carry-on bag. It means doing research to know what to expect. Create a schedule of must-see panels, presentations, and speakers, allowing time to check out vendor areas and networks.
Pack comfortable shoes and clothing that make you feel confident. If you’re flying, it’s a good idea to pack at least one professional outfit and pajamas in your carry-on bag in case the airline loses your luggage.
Understand what’s to eat in the area and when you may carve out time for meals. Scheduling lunches and dinners with mentors, colleagues, and vendors can be a great way to make the most of your time at the event. Expect long lines at restaurants, however, and plan to pack healthy, convenient snacks as fuel to keep you going.
Set tangible, measurable goals for the event. Do you want to have conversations with 20 companies that are currently hiring? Attend five educational panels? Determine your goals and review the schedule to determine the best way to meet those outcomes.
Play Full Out
The more you put into any event, including technical conferences, the more you will get out of it. Come prepared to play full out, which means clearing your schedule from any distractions.
Try to wrap up loose ends before you leave the office. You don’t want to have a report deadline hanging over your head while you’re trying to be at the moment and present at a technical conference.
At the same time, vow to step outside your personal comfort zone once you enter the convention center or event hotel. Approach the keynote speaker after their presentation. Raise your hand to ask questions at panels or offer insights. If you have the opportunity, volunteer to speak at a panel or moderate a Birds of a Feather segment. Not only will these things help you get recognized in your field, but they will also help build your confidence and pave the way for future success.
The event doesn’t end with your flight home. Take advantage of networking opportunities by following up quickly with personal notes.
Products like Popl, a digital business card platform, make it easy to share information with your new connections and follow up easily with your smartphone. Leverage technology to stay in touch and continue building the relationships you’ve formed at events.
You never know what opportunities you’ll discover at an IEEE technical conference. Being present, prepared, and willing to push yourself can yield incredible rewards for your future.