We just sent Maja, our Project Manager extraordinaire, on a round trip to her first-ever industry conference at ILEA Ignite. Named for the heat the three jam-packed days promised to bring to San Antonio, the schedule featured keynote speakers including the author of The Business Switch (yep, the same one from our list of books new event profs should be reading now) and our very own Managing Partner, Dustin Westling.

AZTEC Theatre

Espirit Awards

Read This Before Attending Your First Industry Conference 2023 Espirit Awards

Remember when we told you to kick your shyness to the curb if you want to flourish in the events industry? Maja took this opportunity to do just that, leaving her nerves at home and saying hello to a new face at every turn.

“I tried to interact and introduce myself to someone new at each session to increase my opportunities to grow my network (plus, took every chance for a quick hello in the elevator).”

And the payoff? “I look forward to continuing to build upon the new relationships I cultivated through this conference and to see where these connections will go in the future!” Building your community is not a move you’ll ever regret, no matter how uncomfortable that first step may feel.

Attending Your First Industry Conference

You would never know it was Maja’s inaugural dive into conference life from her smart planning and networking. It got our curiosity burning about how she approached her schedule since, as we all know, choosing what to hit and miss at a conference can seem nearly impossible to get just right.

“I made sure to prepare before leaving, as I know time can go by quickly with so many activities planned! I picked out the sessions that sparked my interest so I had an idea of my agenda in advance. At conference time, I got to use the time I saved to have a conversation with a colleague or stick around to ask the speaker questions.”

On unexpected travel advice:

“I am glad we booked our return flights for the day after the conference to give us more time to explore the city and connect with locals and colleagues on a more intimate level.”

Speaking of exploring the city, when conferences become part of your annual repertoire, it’s easy to forget how amazing it is the first time you get to take in a brand new part of the world while surrounded by event profs who appreciate it just as much as you do.

“I was surprised at how much I was able to enjoy the host city as I was largely expecting to spend most of my time in the hotel and in sessions. The planners did a great job of offering many opportunities to check out local restaurants within walking distance of the hotel. This allowed me to enjoy a bit of sightseeing and learn history about San Antonio every day, which I really enjoyed.”

Our two cents? Plan for fun! Leave time for enjoying the city, not just the breakout rooms. There is so much that event profs can learn from experiencing the sights, sounds, tastes and culture of a new place.

Maja’s advice for students attending their first conference:

“Try to introduce yourself to as many people as possible–even if it can be intimidating. In addition to that, try to take advantage of the time you have with some of the veterans in the room. Ask them questions about their challenges and any advice that they may be willing to offer. Everyone in our industry is always so busy that getting face-to-face time with someone who has been industry for a while is very rare and challenging outside of a conference setting.”

We couldn’t have said it better. If you don’t know where to start when it comes to attending conferences, we’d love to chat!