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“Conference prep 101 for first timers”
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“Conference prep 101 for first timers”

Attending a conference is a great opportunity for personal and professional development for young people. Ashley Foster-Estwick, 26, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Barbados, shares her top tips to help young people prepare for conferences, this summer.

 I’ve had the privilege of being both an attendee and a presenter at conferences outside of my homeland. I reacted to the invitations with an immediate rush of anxiety. This is quite a normal response for some people but is it the right response? I will leave that question to the doctors and spiritual gurus.

I believe anxiety has served me quite well by prompting all my prepping, reading and general data collection for these conferences – which have unequivocally ended in success.

The first bit of advice I will offer is straightforward and can serve as the general framework for your time abroad. Develop an astute level of awareness of yourself and location. This awareness is so imperative that I will spend some time explaining what I mean. Firstly, reflect on what is being asked of you as a presenter or attendee. What is driving your desire to attend the conference?  Are your interests aligned with the objectives of the conference? Can you even afford to get there without depleting your financial resources? Financial arrangements for a conference can include expense for transportation ( including flights), accommodation, registration, and meals. Asking these questions will help you to determine whether traveling to a conference is worth your time.

Understanding what you offer and hope to achieve by attending an overseas conference is also important for those persons who receive full funding to attend these events. Your energy and attitude towards these networking opportunities are a means of investing in yourself and the best person to invest in your future success – is you.

Next, develop an awareness of the location of the conference. What is the climate like? What is the official language of the conference and the majority language of the country? Take into account religious and cultural factors that can determine your dress code and interactions between the sexes, and learn as much as you can about opportunities for personal and professional development that you can pursue during your trip.

Here are some steps I took before venturing to two life-changing conferences. Perhaps you can consider these suggestions in preparation for your next conference.

Initial tech check: Use technology to help you prepare

Do online research and use digital platforms to communicate with your peers. Conduct research about the conference: this includes dates, locations, concept notes, speakers, sponsors, and any scholarships or funding opportunities for attendees.

Follow online discussions about the conference on social media – Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Join group conversations and engage in discussions with prospective and registered attendees, as well as with the conference moderators or facilitators.

Get your maps and travel documents in order. If you have a smartphone, download apps that will be helpful during your time abroad- TripIt and AccuWeather can be game changers.

Give yourself a mission statement: Package what you are about

Look at the work you’ve done. If you are attending the conference as a part of an organization, what is your team currently working on? What achievements or benchmarks have you reached recently? Go prepared with your current CV in hand and an electronic version. My preferred online CV templates are available at uptowork.com. Don’t forget to design and print your business cards and create an infographic with a shareable link. Canva (canva.com) is a one-stop shop for all your graphic design needs.

Write, re-write, edit and finalize your presentation: Get your message out there

Before you get ahead of yourself and start assessing your public speaking skills, focus on the topic of your presentation. At this stage, it’s crucial to be clear on the purpose of your speech so that you can tailor your content accordingly.

Gather appropriate qualitative and quantitative data. Recent scholarly and non-scholarly articles can be great sources of material. During your writing and editing, remember a second opinion is golden. I cannot stress this enough. Once your speech is finalized, rehearse by getting in front of family, peers or work colleagues.

If you are not one of the presenters, come up with a series of questions that you would like the panel to address. Thanks to technology, you also have the option to ask questions via Twitter.

A checklist can be your best friend: Make sure you have your technological equipment and accessories

Nothing is worse than arriving at your destination ill-equipped. Write or type a checklist. Your list should include items like audio recorders, phone or laptop chargers, a portable power bank, flash drives and an iPad.

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photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/comsec

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About me: I was born and raised on the island of Barbados. While writing has always been an outlet for my creative thoughts and ideas, I have never pursued it as a career. Instead, I have studied business, languages and politics. I work in the administration and management field and I hope to cross over into the management of public health. My intention is to use this platform to stimulate conversation with my peers and reenergize my writing.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/

 

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