Making the Most of Attending a National Conference

By Laura Liss

This summer I had the good fortune to be able to attend the American Bar Association’s Annual Meeting held in San Francisco. This is one of the largest, if not the largest, national attorney conferences in the United States spanning approximately a dozen hotels and conference facilities with additional events at other sites as well. Because I was attending on behalf of the Denver Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, I emphasized attendance at the events geared towards young lawyers. Compared to even other American Bar Association (ABA) events I had previously attended, this one was broader in scope and required pre-planning to make the most of attendance.

Here are a few tips for making the most of such a large conference:

  1. Stay at the Hotel Where the Conference Meetings Will Be Held.

If you are trying to keep costs down for attending the event, an obvious choice is to look to see if there are near-by hotels to the hotel hosting your conference that cost less per night, or if it is in your city, to stay at your home. There will be some hotels that will cost substantially less, yes, and of course, so would staying at home.

However, one of the objectives of going to such a conference in-person is to reap the networking benefits it can provide to connect with others in your field. By staying at a different hotel or at home, you lose out on the inherent ability to connect and network as much as others staying at the hotel and seeing them more around the facility. This is even more applicable if you expect to have to do work during the conference because you will miss even more of the conference by having to shuttle between hotel venues or back to your office or home

In my experience attending the ABA Annual Meeting, there were so many sites across which events were being held that it made sense to pick either the hotel where the Young Lawyers’ Division events were held because those were what I was attending mostly. However, if I had been attending more generally, I would have needed to plan which sessions I wanted to go to in advance (see below) and then pick whichever hotel was most convenient to those sites.

  1. Plan Your Meeting Attendance Ahead of Time.

For an event like the ABA Annual meeting that has hundreds of events across a dozen or so sites, pre-selection of which sessions you want to attend is critical. If you wait until the morning of the event, you may realize you cannot make it across ten blocks to the event site for your meeting and get there on-time, even if you take a cab or an Uber! This is also important because there are many events that may be restricted to those individuals that are members of a specific practice group, but this is not usually noted on the event schedule itself. You have to cross-reference the event descriptions or use the meeting app to determine if you are eligible to attend. Again, doing this the morning of almost ensures that you will not timely end up where you want to be.

  1. Attend the Optional Social Events.

The ABA Annual Meeting and other attorney trade association events typically have a variety of social events for attendees that cost an extra amount to attend. If you know someone else who has attended in the past, ask them if these events are well attended or not. If you do not know anyone else who has attended, choose to attend and make the most of the informal networking opportunities there. Often when attendees are at these social events, that is your best time to really get to know them personally instead of just professionally.

To conclude, no matter the conference you attend, make a game plan that emphasizes time to get to know the other attendees and making the most of the available programs. And plan to put these tips into action during the ABA YLD fall meeting to be held in Denver in 2017!


Laura-LissLaura Liss advises on franchise, general commercial, real estate, and trademark transactions and litigation matters, including preparing and reviewing franchise disclosure documents, buying or selling a business, commercial real estate and contractual matters, as well as trademark litigation. Laura chairs the Colorado Bar Association’s franchise subsection, is a member of the Executive Council of the Denver Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, co-chairs a subcommittee of the Professionalism Coordinating Council of the CBA/DBA educates attorneys on professionalism through her subcommittee’s video vignettes, and is a member of the William E. Doyle Inn of Court.

Posted in Career Development, Networking