If you are in sales or marketing, the odds are pretty good that you have been to some sort of conference in the past year. Whether it was an industry trade show, a business partner’s conference or your own company’s annual conference, these events have become a major part of the job description for sales and marketing folks.

Unfortunately, conferences aren’t always the best part of our jobs. There’s nothing worse than shelling out money for your ticket and travel, only to feel like you have completely had your time wasted. Most conference-goers have experienced this on more than one occasion.

However, it doesn’t have to be that way. You can ensure a positive conference experience by adopting a proactive approach to attending conferences. Below are just a few tips for getting more out of your next conference:

Get Social
Social media has quickly become an indispensible tool during conferences. Following a conference hashtag on Twitter can add another dimension to your conference experience. Hear other conference goers thoughts and opinions in real time, and have all those great tips and quotes you may not have been able to scribble down neatly chronicled for you.

Record Action Steps, Not Notes
How many times have you actually gone back through your notes after a conference? Despite our best intentions while taking notes, we very rarely circle back to them. They just become a scribbled mess of random ideas, quotes and thoughts. Instead of writing down everything you can in one jumbled mess, record action steps you would like to take based off of the inforrmation you receive. This will make your notes easier to review and much more practical.

Identify Key Takeaways
Make an effort to distill each session into two or three key takeaways. This will help you remember the content presented to you and convert those ideas into action steps. Presenters will usually divide their presentations into sections based on their main ideas, identifying the takeaways for you.

Plan Meetings
Don’t rely on random encounters during breaks to help you network and build relationships. Identify one or two conference attendees beforehand and actively schedule a time to meet up. These could be potential customers, key decision makers or just like-minded people you would like to build relationships with. Be purposeful and proactive with the people you spend your time with and you will get a lot more out of conferences.

Use Business Cards
Most conference conversations will end with the exchange of business cards. However, many conference goers never put those cards to use. Immediately after the conference or at the end of each day, take time to organize the cards you’ve collected. Create a stack of potential prospects, a stack for immediate follow up, etc. Act on these new contacts as soon as possible while their memory of you and their conversation with you is still fresh.

Utilizing the tips above will allow you to take your conference experience into your own hands and make the most out of your next conference. If you are looking for an opportunity to put these tips into practice, join us in Atlanta for Pardot’s annual Elevate conference in October!