There's much more to conferences than just the programme of events - the workshops, seminars and keynote speakers. They are a convergence of like-minded individuals, who very often have similar backgrounds, experiences and ambitions. As such, conferences offer fantastic opportunities for networking and making valuable additions to your contacts book.

But if you fail to plan properly in advance, you might struggle to make the most of these networking opportunities. Very often, there is a packed programme of events, which leaves little additional time for socialising - particularly if it's only a one-day gathering. You might be eager to rendezvous with certain people, but simply not get the chance.

As such, it's important to plan your get-togethers in advance. Find out who is going to be in attendance at the conference and identify a certain number of individuals you want to speak to. It may even be the case that you want to organise a group meeting, off-schedule, to ensure your networking opportunity arises.

This could be a private gathering, to discuss a sales opportunity, or an additional item on the programme of events that everyone is welcome to attend. For instance, you might be interested in forming a group to discuss innovations in your industry, or assess the impacts of regulatory change. Putting a date in your diary means you'll get the opportunity to speak to the people you want to, whether in a one-on-one or group setting.

Making this commitment in advance, and setting a time and location in stone, helps to ensure you make the most of your conference trip. All you need to do is make a couple of quick phone calls or send round a group email. Then you can turn up in the morning without the pressure of having to track down key individuals and catch them at a moment they are free to talk.