Conferences are fantastic. You get to network, learn more about your industry and probably have a lot of fun doing so. But there’s often a hangup people have. Here it is…

You work hard. Normally, you work 40+ hours per week. So when a conference rolls around, what are you supposed to do? Stop production so you can hang around at a conference for a week?

Think about it like this… let’s say you make $1,500 per week actively. That means you personally are offering a service or producing a product that earns you $1,500 because you put in the sweat time. And then a conference pops up. With the conference probably being 3 days plus two travel days, that means an entire workweek has basically been spent at this conference. Not to mention the hours you put into planning your attendance. This of course means you’ll have lost $1,500 plus the cost of the conference itself! Whoa.

What you’re probably thinking is that you’ll gain so much information about the industry and have so much time talking with your peers that it’ll be worth it. You’ll recoup that $2,000+. And perhaps you will. But I like to balance my time at conferences. It allows me to earn a lot and learn a lot. Here’s how it’s done:

Find out What Will Be Recorded

At most conferences, speakers are recorded so you can watch the playback when you get home. This means you actually don’t need to go to speakers – unless you’d like to ask questions right then and there or you want to hang out with whoever else is in attendance.

Make a List of People You’re Dying to Meet + Questions for Each of Them

Eye the crowd. Find the person you’re dying to meet. Make your approach. Be intelligent. Done.

I’ve been tongue-tied more than once after meeting a hero. Don’t let this happen to you. Find out who you want to meet, what you want to say and BAM you’re smarter for having talked with them.

Stay On-Site

If you’re not earning a great income, you may find it more wise to stay off-site. This is because you can get an Airbnb or another hotel usually cheaper than the conference hotel. But staying on-site makes it much easier to sneak away to work. You simply take the elevator instead of having to go blocks.

Usually at conferences there’s a lull in activity in late morning and mid-afternoon. Take advantage of that time to keep getting your normal workload accomplished.

Don’t Have Your Room Be the Party Room

Since you’re staying on-site – make sure yours is NOT the party room. Yes, it can be fun but if you’re entertaining, you’ve basically committed yourself to 24/7 conference life. It’s best to leave the hosting to someone else.

Really Evaluate Which Meetings/Speakers/Etc. You Want to Attend

Everything is optional! You’re free to do whatever! So what I suggest is you analyze the happenings as early as possible. See which ones appeal to you. Mark them and make plans to attend. Yes, your plans may vary slightly as you get more information. But I’ve always found it best to stick to a plan.

Keep a Routine

Routines are fantastic. And even though you’re 2,000 miles from home in a city you’ve never been – you can still keep much of your routine. This includes getting the right amount of sleep, exercising, eating healthy, keeping up with your schedule (ie: managing social media from 8-9, email from 9-10, etc.)

Conclusion

Conferences are fantastic. But if you’re a serious business person – you would simply rather not let all of your other responsibilities slide while you’re at the conference. And don’t feel bad about sneaking away. You’ve determined it’s in your best interest so go for it!

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William Lipovsky owns the personal finance website First Quarter Finance. His most embarrassing moment was telling a Microsoft executive, "I'll just Google it."

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