Conference Season: Straight Ahead

It is that time of year…conference season! I have the pleasure and honor of speaking/presenting/teaching at 8 different events around the country this fall talking about my favorite topic…grant writing and best practices in our field including the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference and Grant Professionals Association National Conference.

Wondering what I’m talking about at the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference?

As I started to prepare this summer for the fall season and the numerous different topics I would be speaking on, I paused to talk with my team about what their individual approaches are to attending professional development events whether a half day session in their own community or a multi-day event out of town. Keep reading for their nine great tips for you to consider the next time you go to an event to ensure you have the best professional development experience possible.

9 Tips on Having a Successful Conference Experience

  • If there is an app, download it and use it. – Bethany Turner
  • Create an action plan while you are still at the conference.  Then, publicly share it with your team the week you return to the office for accountability. – Julie Boll
  • Look at the sessions ahead of time and decide which ones you are going to. Specifically look for ones in areas you are weak in or want to learn more about. Also, have a backup session chosen for each time slot in case your first choice is full. – Bethany Turner
  • Prioritize sessions on topics that you need to learn more about, even if they may not be as interesting as others. If the sessions are rated by career level, don’t shy away from the advanced ones – you may fit there better than you think. – Briana Popek
  • Have a ton of business cards ready and always write down something about the person you just met on theirs so you don’t forget why you connected. – Nicole Sibilski
  • Map out your conference strategy ahead of time.  Review the session schedule and give priorities (low, medium, high) for the sessions you want to attend. If there are concurrent sessions you want to attend, check if the speaker is facilitating another session or participating in a panel discussion. – Jane Nelson
  • Nonprofit AF wrote a great post titled Tips From Introverts to Introverts on How to Survive a Conference – Bethany Turner
  • Force yourself to sit at a table of strangers at every breakfast and lunch to maximize your networking. – Nicole Sibilski
  • Follow up with the people you really connect with & follow them on social media.  We’re all busy but this makes an impression. You never know where a relationship is going.  I’ve had contacts reach out and refer work when they became swamped, or refer clients working in a space where they didn’t have expertise. Same for me if I need to pull in another consultant on an ask with a quick turnaround. – Ariella Nasuti

What events are you attending this fall to get your dose of professional development? We’d love to hear!

Leave a comment below or send us an email (info If someone from our team will be at the same event, we’d love to connect with you!


  1. Bethany Turner October 10, 2018at9:18 am

    I can’t wait for the Grant Professionals Association national conference in November.

    1. Diane H. Leonard, GPC October 10, 2018at7:58 pm

      Ditto! Another sold out event – it is going to be an awesome professional development experience!


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