Achieving Optimal Results at a Nursing Professional Conference

Nurses General Nursing


Specializes in Education.

Conference attendance can be career-advantageous, exciting, and exhausting. Planning and preparation are helpful in navigating to a successful outcome. I've attended many conferences. Included below are the considerations, cautions, and tips I accumulated.

Prior to Registering

·       Decide conference goals.

o   Content: knowledge level, goal appropriate, topic & skill variety

o   Interpersonal: networking, distancing, mindset, self-care, social, cost (work reimbursable? Income tax deductible?)

·       Which conference? Best for your goal(s)?

·       Discuss with mentor and/or supervisor – conference goals & presentation upon return.

·       Register: consider work and personal obligations, the process for reimbursement

·       Travel arrangements

Are you eager to go to the nursing conference that your colleagues have been raving about? Or is your mailbox (both physical and electronic) full of ads for the greatest-ever conference coming near? First, take a breath, and think about it. What do you want to get out of this conference? Are you hoping to increase your nursing specialty level of knowledge or explore other specialty areas? You may want to distance yourself from your current work situation to gain objectivity and perspective while exploring or creating future career opportunities. Or indulge in some self-care with time away from your home life. Does your employer offer reimbursement for conferences? If not, is it affordable considering childcare, and other associated costs? Does the conference you are considering offer alternate options such as virtual if in-person attendance is not possible? Answering these questions can shed some light on your goals for a nursing conference. If your budget allows for a personal assistant, the use of one to ease preparation is invaluable.

Decide which conference is for you. It can be helpful to discuss your goals with a mentor and/or your supervisor. Presentations upon return can be helpful in the justification of the cost for a supervisor. Investigate your chosen conference considering work and personal obligations and if available the process of reimbursement. Only register if it works within your parameters. Then book your travel arrangement(s).

·       Start lists:

o   network individuals

o   packing including comfortable casual & business attire (take this list with you to the conference for use when leaving)

o   personal countdown (prior to leaving & returning)

o   work countdown (prior to leaving & returning)

o   email conference networking contacts, take business cards, work contact(s)

o   carryon or briefcase: a paper copy of travel arrangement(s) receipt(s)

These lists are not exclusive. Personal needs vary. However, from my experience, these items are the most important and easily forgotten. A list of those individuals you plan to meet, compiled ahead of time, will facilitate your networking whether they be session presenters, those presenting their posters, or others. Outfits are dictated by use, of course, comfortable casual for downtime and business attire for conference attendance. Some conference attire suggestions are often in the registration information. Personal and work countdowns keep you on track and less frazzled, particularly as deadlines approach. A rolling carryon or briefcase can be crucial while traveling and during the conference for the keepsake of important documents, organization, and ease of carrying items such as a laptop, tablet, wipes, facial tissue, snacks, charging cords, multiplug/USB strip, and the like.

·       Set up a personal schedule.

o   do not over plan do include self-care.

o   include networking opportunities, distancing, mindset, and social.


The conference will have a schedule of sessions. However for the conference to meet your goals as discussed above it will be necessary to compose a personal schedule that includes networking opportunities, distancing, mindset, and social opportunities. A cautionary note, enthusiasm, and excitement can lead to over-planning your personal schedule. Be mindful of rest, relaxation, and self-care possibilities offered by the conference administrators and the conference facility. Conference schedules can include early morning walks, yoga, and coffee klatches available for sign-up at registration. If your budget allows the facility may have a salon, massages, and spa amenities, book ahead you will not be the only one taking advantage of the offferings.

Arrival (Before Sessions Begin)

·       Attend Meet & Greet(s) and personally scheduled events(s) (with your cell silenced, out of sight, and out of mind) take your business cards!

·       Orient yourself on session(s) locations, restrooms, break and meal areas, poster presentations (take note of networking possibilities)

·       Organize Session attendance and networking.

·       Self-care including rest.


Networking possibilities are rife at the meet and greet sessions which take place the day before a conference is to start and are generally offered for sign-up at registration. Your employer reimbursement may or may not allow for arrival the day before. It may be advantageous if your budget allows it to cover the difference in cost. If you do attend your attention and presentation of yourself in this initial networking effort are crucial, silence your mobile, keep it out of sight, and out of mind! Have your business cards in hand. In addition, on arrival wander and find session locations, restrooms, break and meal areas, and poster presentations. Often poster presentations can change at the last minute before a conference. Take note of any that not there you may have had on your networking list. And any others newly added for networking possibilities. Organize your networking. Unpack, settle, and rest, traveling can be exhausting.

Initially and During Session Attendance

·       Put away mobile (silenced and pocketed for emailing/posting between sessions)

·       Attend sessions, network, self-care, meet with friends, and stay organized.

·       Use your memory aids: pen/paper, laptop, tablet

·       Spontaneous and planned networking: business cards, introductions, before & after session presentations – schmoozing & lingering are expected.

·       Balance time and energy needs


While you are participating in sessions and networking stay in the moment with your mobile in your pocket or case. Enjoy meeting friends new and familiar. Keep yourself on track with notetaking and the use of your memory aids. Be prepared for networking. Balance time and energy, these opportunities can be daunting.

Almost Over & Leaving

·       Keep your memory aids organized for personal and back-at-work presentation use.

·       Organize networking collection of business cards, and key takeaways for follow-up.

·       Begin prepping to leave – use the packing, work, and personal countdown lists you brought with you to double-check you are not forgetting something.

·       Countdown to return personal and work lists.

Any time spent organizing all of the information learned, gathered networking, and acquired skills is time well spent. The leaving and return tasks will be eased with those lists you so carefully prepared.

Return - Pay it forward!

·       tell co-workers, friends, boss, and email, tweet, of experiences, skills, etc.

·       give the presentation(s) you planned with your mentor or supervisor.

·       network gratitude to the newly met via email. 

During your return email, tweet, and when back at work tell co-workers, friends, boss, of your experiences, and acquired skills, etc. Follow through with the presentation. And send out those follow-up emails of thanks to those you met networking.  

There are many considerations, cautions, and tips I may have missed. Please do reply below with any experiences or thoughts that made a difference for you in nursing conference attendance.

Achieving Optimal Results at a Nursing Professional Conference .docx

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