Banner promoting the IABC World Conference in Chicago June 23-26, 2024Summertime, and the networking is easy. Well, it’s easy at the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) World Conference. In my experience, its professional development is also great, the social events are terrific and the people are warm and welcoming, too.

Whether you’re at the IABC conference (June 23-26, 2024 in Chicago) or somewhere else, are you making the most of it? Here are 11 of my own tips.


1. Check out the program ahead of time and decide which sessions are most appealing. If you can’t choose between two sessions, plan to sit near the back. Then you can always slip out and go to the other if needed.

2. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date. That’s where most people will go to connect with you or find out more about you. (But if you have business cards, bring them along, too. I always tucked mine into the conference badge.)

3. Make plans to meet with some of your social media contacts. Online has its value, but it’s always great to meet in person. Find out who else is going and set up a time to meet.

4. Plan to make the most of being in the host city. Conferences are held in some terrific places, and you can fit in some sightseeing over lunch breaks or evenings. I’ve done the architecture tour by boat in Chicago, a foodie walking tour in New York City, and in New Orleans, a daytime garden district tour (with a peek at the home of Anne Rice, author of Interview with the Vampire) and spooky nighttime ghost tour. Foodie tours are especially popular, so book them in advance.


5. Sign up for IABC’s Tuesday dine around and network over dinner. Local IABC members lead a party of 10 or so people to a specific restaurant, and you sign up for the type of food or location that appeals. (You pay your own way. ) You’ll meet new people and get to eat great food at a restaurant recommended by locals. There are usually menus and details in the hospitality area of the conference hotel, and local members who can answer your questions. Sign up early; spaces fill up fast.

6. Say hello. You can’t miss that giant badge on your lapel identifying you as a communicator. So when you get into an elevator and you see the same badge, say hello! An easy icebreaker question is, “Where are you from?” Yes, you’ll meet a lot of Canadians and Americans, but you’ll also meet people from Australia, Denmark, Japan, South Africa, the U.K. and  many other places.

7. Go to the Annual General Meeting on the Sunday. Especially if you’re attending your first IABC conference or have travelled solo, introduce yourself to others and you’ll have made connections before going to the welcome reception. You’ll also find out what’s going on within IABC.

8. Don’t miss the welcome reception! It’s usually held in an interesting, famous or simply beautiful spot (like the Rainbow Room in New York City). And you’ll meet new people.

9. Go to the keynote/spotlight sessions. They always feature interesting speakers covering hot topics. And you’ll meet new people.

10. Make a point of sitting beside people you don’t know and introducing yourself…but don’t hesitate to spend time with other members from your home chapter too. I’m in the Toronto chapter, and it’s so big that I like having another chance to meet up with other local members. I’ve also deliberately searched out other Canadians, in past years made obvious by an “IABC Canada, eh!” ribbon (seen in the photo here).


11. Follow up with people you met.  Ask to connect on LinkedIn, if you haven’t already; be sure to personalize the invitation with a reminder that you met at the conference. If you’re already connected, send a note to say how much you enjoyed meeting them and reference what you talked about.

I won’t be in Chicago, unfortunately, but I’ll be looking for highlights from my colleagues who will be. Do you have any other tips specific to conferences (or elsewhere)? Please share in the comments!

Related reading
Check out my reports on past IABC World Conferences
Listen to the “Connecting at conferences” podcast episode (not just for lawyers)