Do be prepared to make small talk to strangers. Be comfortable talking about the conference, keynote speakers, your institution, enrollment numbers, and yourself. Practice your elevator speech.
Do intentionally meet at least three new people that you will feel comfortable connecting with after the conference.
Do prepare in advance by reviewing the schedule, selecting some sessions, and reading up on keynote speakers.
Do bring your own business cards.
Do attend conference sessions on topics you have little or no knowledge of.
Do enjoy meals with people you don’t know. A simple, “May I join you?” or “Is this seat taken?” is all it takes to meet six to eight new people.
Do attend the exhibit hall. Exhibitors are the financial lifeblood of most conferences/associations (they pay a lot of money to attend). Even though you may not be in a position to purchase anything, giving vendors a few minutes of your time to learn about their products or services may pay off for you in the future when you are in a position to purchase or recommend a product or vendor.
Do remember that every person you meet or attend a session with could be a future employer.
Do dress appropriately.
Do be prepared to share what you have learned with your colleagues when you return.
Do send notes to people you met, telling them how much you enjoyed meeting them.
Do not gossip or talk negatively about anyone or anything in the elevator or while hanging out in a lobby. Too many people have hurt their careers by chatting in the elevator or elsewhere about others.
Do not feel that you have to attend every meeting and every session block (unless your supervisor or the person who paid the registration fee expects you to). Sometimes the people you talk to in the lobby will be the most significant part of the conference.
Do not speak negatively about your institution or your supervisors no matter what you really think.
Do not monopolize the conversation during a session. It is perfectly appropriate to ask a question or contribute to a discussion, but allow other people the chance to speak and offer ideas.
Do not hang out in loud groups and attract attention to yourself in negative ways.