The 2011 DirectEmployers Association Annual Meeting & Conference is certainly not our first rodeo, but every year we learn something new and work hard to make the next year’s conference better.

While trying to find replacement bulbs for stage lights on the Vegas Strip was “entertaining,” being on our home turf affords us more flexibility in planning, budget and variety. This is also perfect timing as our city prepares for Super Bowl XLVI.

I wanted to take an opportunity to share some personal perspective on how attendees can make the most of this year’s event based on our planning as well as my own experiences attending many, many conferences.

1) For any Members attending with colleagues, I encourage you to consider going up to a person standing/sitting alone and befriend him or her. Few people I know go to a conference wanting to be left alone – the person may just be shy.

2) Be the first to ask a question when a speaker finishes. It can be awkward for both a speaker and audience if crickets are chirping after a presentation. Depending on the topic it may be something as simple as, “What would you have done differently?” This might generate an answer that fuels another question and so on.

3) Multi-tasking is important, but don’t miss out on good opportunities to network or be truly engaged because of disruptive technology. I know the blinking light of an email notification is tempting, but it’s not every day you get to see fellow members face-to-face, or get the ability to pick the brains of your peers. If you can’t resist or need to take a call though, this year we’ll have a designated area with Internet access for your convenience.

4) Plan out which sessions you will attend, as well as which companies you want to network with. We’re having concurrent sessions on day two, so it may benefit you to review in advance and know which will bring most value based on your objectives.

5) I saw this idea on the site: “Separate the wisdom from the action.” In a nutshell, it’s easy to take down a lot of notes, but identify specific action items separate from your observations, quotes and notations. The site also recommends to, “Distill every talk down to one key takeaway.”

6) Follow the conversation or tweet using hashtag #DEAM11

7) Take advantage of our social outings to get to know the staff and other Members while seeing sites unique to Indy.

What are some tips you would recommend?

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