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Maximizing your conference experience

By Nicolai Oliden posted 08-22-2022 12:47 PM


I haven’t attended an in-person conference since 2019. Covid really put a hold on most in-person events, especially large conferences. I am excited to attend two conferences over the next two months and thought I’d share some of my top conference tips with you. If you do anything that isn’t listed, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

1-Research who is going

Once I register for a conference, I message some work friends and past connections to see if they will be there. This gives you a chance to gameplan who you want to say hi to or take out for a meal.

2-Research the dress code

Dress codes vary depending on region or purpose of the conference. Business casual is always a safe play but if it is your first time at that conference, you might want to confirm that it’s OK to leave the full suit at home.

3-Gameplan for sessions/schedules

Sitting in sessions all day is tiring. Plan to take breaks and walk the tradeshow or do other activities available at the conference. Once the topics and schedule are released, I identify a couple that I really want to attend and then plan to socialize for the remaining time.

4-Network – New people

Networking can be exhausting, but conferences are a great way to meet new contacts. The goal is not to meet everyone. The goal is to be friendly with everyone one but really just make a few deeper, meaningful connections that you can follow up with.

5-Network – Past contacts

It is great to reconnect with past contacts at conferences. If you follow step one, be on the lookout for those people at the conference. You might even invite them to dinner (pro tip: it helps to schedule client dinners before the conference).

6-Document your experience

Conferences are great but sometimes they can feel like a firehose of information. Within a day or two of the conference, take 30 minutes to write down everything you learned, people you met, and things you want to remember. Then you can review it the following year to prepare for next time.

7-Schedule follow-ups

Lastly, within a week of the conference, send out some follow-up emails, meeting invites, etc., to your old and new contacts. The connections will be fresh so it should be easy to meet up again over the following weeks.

Anyway, this is not my entire conference tip list but hopefully this helps you really maximize your next conference!

Nicolai Oliden is a roadway project engineer and office manager at Ethos Engineering. He has been active in ASCE as a Phoenix Branch Younger Member Forum officer for five years, including his term as president in 2017.

He graduated from Arizona State University in 2008 and considers himself lucky to work on transportation projects across the state of Arizona.

In addition to his work at Ethos, Oliden started his own company, EngineeringYOU, to help young professionals start their career on the right track. He teaches various leadership topics, leads personal development discussions, and is a financial coach.

You can find him at the website, social media, or contact him directly by emailing [email protected].

Attend the 2022 ASCE Annual Convention 




03-10-2023 10:27 AM

I was very disappointed by one aspect of the 2022 Structures Congress.  The dwindling availability of Proceeding papers, and other information for presentations I could not attend simultaneously, is increasing dramatically. I see that Geo Congress puts out 5 or 6 Proceedings CDs every year, and I am frustrated to the point of deciding not to attend any more until this policy changes. My experience in the 2009 and 2010 Structures Congress was radically different. I recommend you look into what will be available to you after the event ends.

09-05-2022 05:06 PM

Great list!

To expand on document your experience and follow-ups, writing notes on the business cards you've received can be helpful to remember what you've talked about with a particular person.