Want to make the most of your FIA Conference experience?

Want to make the most of your FIA Conference experience?

Want to make the most of your FIA Conference experience?

Want to make the most of your FIA Conference experience?

Conferences can sometimes be a bit overwhelming, especially if you’re attending by yourself. So, we have pulled together some advice on how you can make the most out of attending FIA Conference 2020 in Brisbane next week.

It starts with you

FIA Conference is about you and your professional development. Appropriately, the 2020 theme is it starts with you! It’s essential to make a plan to get the most out of your learning because there’s a lot on offer – seven masterclasses, 80+ sessions and a myriad of networking opportunities.

“Take the time to review the conference program and pick a couple of things you want to learn about. You might want to extend yourself by attending sessions where you don’t know much about a particular aspect of fundraising, like gifts in Wills or community events. Or perhaps you want some information about personal effectiveness, data or providing a top-notch donor experience,” says Alice Anwar, FIA Conference 2020 Program Committee chair.

If you’re attending with other colleagues, make sure you spread out and pick different sessions so you can all get an extensive body of knowledge to swap later.

Gathering information

Use your phone to record the best ideas. Aim for three key takeaways from each presentation you attend and keep a “best ideas” page somewhere handy, so you have them in one place.

Network, network and network!

Many of our more seasoned attendees say some of the most valuable learnings gained at FIA Conference come from networking. Why not attend one or more of the networking events to meet new people or find old fundraising friends? There are sessions for new attendees, emerging leaders or those with special designations like the FIA Fellows or CFRE as well as the usual welcome and farewell drinks.

“Many people find the idea of starting a conversation with a stranger daunting but remember: they’re here to meet people too. The great thing about conferences is they bring people together who share a common profession to swap experiences, share ideas and talk about trends and developments,” says Natalie Walker, FIA’s executive manager, conference and events.

“This year we’ve introduced a session focused purely on networking – the speed networking session straight after the opening plenary on Wednesday is designed for those who don’t know many others at the conference or who just want to meet more!”

Good conversation openers include asking people what they’ve liked about the conference so far, what sessions they’ve attended or even what’s surprised them about the event. Be sure to exchange business cards and connect on LinkedIn. You might also send new contacts an email letting them know you enjoyed meeting them.

It’s a good idea to write some notes to yourself after meeting anyone new, who they were and what you discussed. Otherwise, you might end up with a lot of business cards, but not sure who was who!

Let it go: don’t think about the office

It’s easy to get distracted by the phone that’s vibrating in your pocket or to worry about the work piling up in the office. But don’t. Focus on the speakers and their presentations instead. The conference is your time to learn.

Visit the conference exhibition

A lot of attendees don’t make the most out of the exhibition. Visiting exhibitor booths is a great way to get an overview of the sector landscape, where it’s going on the technology front and what tools are available now or coming soon. Visit the stands and talk to the many exhibitors to learn what they offer, ask questions and see if they have some advice. You might get ideas for where to go for help on future projects.

Stay healthy

It’s so easy to eat and drink too much of the wrong food and beverages at conferences and not get enough sleep. Keep hydrated and consider going for quick walks before the day starts or during breaks to get some fresh air.

Try to look for healthier choices at the buffet and don’t skip meals. You don’t want to miss the chance to learn or network because you were tired, “hangry” or feeling off-colour.

When you get home

Review your notes and any handouts you picked up. Decide what takeaways are the most useful for you and your organisation. Do a mini-presentation with your colleagues to discuss the learnings and what next steps could be around the implementation of ideas. Your colleagues who didn’t get to go will appreciate you sharing the knowledge and might return the favour if they get to attend the next conference.

Attending FIA Conference is a once-a-year experience to talk to people in your sector, meet fundraising legends, learn from the mistakes and successes of others and enhance your fundraising skills. Be sure to make the most of it! Register today!