How to learn to love conferences again

biding time in here photo courtesy flickr user zigazou76

(MoneyWatch) I know it is important to attend professional conferences. I also confess that I have a very short attention span. That makes conferences tough. Just as when I listened to lectures in school, I get frustrated by the amount of time passing, especially when I consider that this is time that could be spent, say, reading a book.

But I realized that if I approached a conference with a set of goals in mind, I'd enjoy myself much more. They need to be limited goals. After all, on any given day, I sometimes scratch my head figuring out "What did I learn today?" The key is not to expect too much more from a day spent at a conference. Here's a potential list of goals when you attend one:

- Put 3 names with faces: meet a few people you know virtually in person

- Spend time -- in the hallway, over coffee, over lunch -- with 5 people you've met before and remember and liked

- Meet 3 new interesting people who would qualify for the above category the next time you attend this conference

- Learn the name of a book or publication or website you'd like to start reading

- If you're running a business, leave with enough leads to cover at least twice the cost of the conference (and hopefully more!)

- Learn 3 new tidbits you didn't know. Even if it just turns into cocktail party fodder, that can be useful in its own right.

Just don't take the swag. No one needs conference swag -- particularly if it distracts you from the above goals.

What do you hope to take away from conferences?

Photo courtesy of Flickr user zigazou76

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