It might seem counterintuitive, but often the worst thing you can do at a conference is stick rigidly to the timetable. You might think the best thing you can do is attend every single session to make sure you don't miss any of the planned talks. However, by doing this you might be missing out on something even more useful.

Sometimes, the best part of a conference is the impromptu meetings and social gatherings that happen between attendees. If you meet someone who would potentially be an incredibly valuable contact for you, should you cut your conversation short so you can make the next session? Most would say no.

But how can you make sure you make the most of these meetings? You need to start organising them with people you meet who might be useful to you. Here are a few ways of doing this:

Food and drink

Going for lunch, or an early breakfast before the conference starts, is a great way to forge valuable relationships with your fellow attendees. This can usually be done without skipping any part of the schedule as well, as most conferences have planned lunch and coffee breaks already in their timetable.

A good idea is to invite one or two people to lunch, but ask them to bring anyone they know who would fit in well. They will inevitably choose high-quality people with a lot to bring to any discussion, which will make the meal even more valuable to you.

Sharing notes

If you are going to a session with somebody, or if there are two sessions on at the same time and you both want to go to a different one, it is often a good idea to arrange to meet up afterwards. That way, you can go over your notes, filling each other in on anything that was missed and furthering discussion.

Ignore the timetable

Sometimes, you might find that the meeting you are having is more valuable to you than the next timetabled session would be. If that is the case, skip it! You don't have to feel guilty about doing so; you are attending the conference for your benefit (and that of your business), so if a conversation would be better for you than a seminar then continue it!