shutterstock_65890447If you’re in the training and development field, it’s likely you already know that the 2014 ISPE North American Annual Meeting, in Las Vegas, Nevada will be starting in less than a month.

What you may not have thought about is how, by starting to prepare for the conference now, you’ll have the best chance to take advantage of the scores of opportunities for learning and networking.

Think it’s too early to get ready? Even though the conference doesn’t begin for another four weeks, NOW is the perfect time to start your preparations, especially if you truly want to leverage the event for your own professional development.

Here are some tips as you plan ahead:

  1. Spend some time reviewing the conferencing program to determine which session or tracks will help you build upon your current skill base OR look for programs to improve an area which you may need some further learning to improve your skills. Mark those sessions accordingly.
  2. Review other events taking place at the conference. You’ll find a variety of opportunities to learn about new areas you might have been curious about or you may read about products you have really wanted to investigate in more detail as you review the Exhibitor Directory. Chances are high that the Exhibit Hall will give you a chance to do both.
  3. What about your business card? Your online profile? The latest project you’ve been involved in? Bring plenty of updated business cards, to network and connect with others at the conference. Don’t miss this great opportunity to include information on your business card, online portfolio or profile about what’s new in your world.

Most important—after the conference—ask yourself:

  • How can I use what I learned?
  • How will this information make a difference in my career?
  • What ways do I want to grow from here?
  • What new information/data/attitude/excitement do I have now that might give me new ideas for how I see myself and my field?

All of these actions can really make a difference in your ability to grow your career. But each activity takes time. Waiting until the last minute won’t give you the time to leverage the conference in all the ways possible. Plan now and reap the benefits in more ways than you can imagine.

Even if you’re not able to attend the conference, you can still keep up with the latest breaking conference news by following ISPE on Twitter using #ISPEAM14 or reading the daily recap on ISPEAK.

Got any new ideas to add to your list? Feel free to include for your colleagues to consider as well. Tell us more in the comments.