Most of us I'm sure regularly get invited to or contemplate attending conferences, exhibitions, seminars in our sector - this is my very personal guide to "enjoying" the events you say "yes" to (this is very much influenced by the fact that i've just been to and enjoyed #IndeedInteractive last week)
1. Check and review the Agenda/Subject/Speakers - so you know what you getting before you get there and aren't complaining about the content during lunch (obviously I've never done this...)
2. I'm a sucker for a nice venue/nice food. Yes I know that makes me look like a xxxxx. But its important to know yourself isn't it!
3. Once you have decided to go - DO make an effort. Talk to peers, suppliers, clients. Stick your hand up and ask questions. People are generally lovely and in same boat as you - and speaking as an occasional presenter at these things - getting a question is a wonderful human interaction and an excuse to leave the pre set narrative behind.
4. Set realistic objectives. My personal feeling is if have learnt two things and met two interesting people - then its a success. But i'm easily pleased.
5. DONT be afraid to dip out. For people with short attention spans like me - the 230-330 pm slot which is an ATS demo - may be a suitable slot to return calls, do emails, hide in the corner of the coffee shop. Dipping out means you get more from the sessions before and after - and you're probably more up for networking rather than brain dead.
6. This is the most important tip - DON'T attend too many conferences - DON'T be afraid to skip a year to the event that you actually get quite a lot out of. Nothing chills the soul more than seeing the same presentation from 6 months ago that is maybe just a sales pitch anyway (nothing wrong with those in the right place) or my personal hate - the rose tinted case study - showing how everything went brilliantly - and aren't we all amazing.
One of the main reasons we attend external events is to open our mind and think differently about our work/company/team. Therefore - make sure you start with an open mind and a great attitude. I can GUARANTEE this advice will improve your conference experience - well maybe at least until the first coffee break.