Whether virtually or in-person, attending professional conferences is a big commitment. You may earn CE hours from a qualifying session, but other than those opportunities, how do you justify spending the time and money to attend? Consider these actions so you leave every conference with more than a tote bag:

Set Measurable Networking Goals

Networking can be a vague concept—quantify it. Set a goal of making three to five professional contacts during the conference.

For an in-person event, that could be following up with an industry peer within 24 hours of a face-to-face conversation. In a virtual environment, that could be scheduling a call or video chat after a great conversation in a session’s breakout room.

If you didn’t connect during the conference itself, write down the names of prospective contacts and reach out through LinkedIn. Mention you attended the same session or conference when introducing yourself.

Help Others

If you are a more established professional, you can help less experienced agents make connections at conferences. Set a goal of introducing a newer agent to three useful contacts. Stick around to foster the connection by talking up the agent’s skills or finding common cause between everyone.

Seek Out Shovel-Ready Ideas

Conferences often include new and exciting sessions … that have nothing to do with your business. Be sure to sign up for sessions that are applicable to your field. You are more likely to learn tips and tricks you can implement when you get back to work. Discovering useful strategies at a conference helps justify your participation.

Become a Presenter

Share your knowledge by teaching a session. Presenting at a conference showcases your expertise and draws new contacts to you. You can also network with fellow presenters. Conference organizers book months in advance, so try to get on the schedule for next year.

Maintain Those Connections

Conferences are a convenient time to strengthen many existing connections. Find opportunities to touch base with former colleagues, contacts from past conferences, and other industry professionals. The time you invest in these relationships may lead to new opportunities down the road.