Conferences are a great way to expand your knowledge of your industry. However, many people make the mistake of not making use of the full potential of the gatherings. If you turn up, put in the bare minimum of effort, absorb a few lectures and head home, you will not have taken advantage of a number of important features.

One of the most important aspects of attending a conference is that it brings together people from in and around your field. You might find people from similar firms to your own, your suppliers or your clients are all at the same conference as you, giving you the perfect opportunity to do some networking.

Making useful contacts is a vital aspect of any business, but at a conference networking is about more than that. You are there to learn about how to improve your company, so you should take advantage of the collected expertise of those present.

So how can you do this? The first option - and the easiest - is to strike up conversations with whoever is near you about the talks and seminars you have attended. Everyone at the conference will probably have something to offer you, even if it is just a different viewpoint, so there is no need to go hunting for an expert.

Of course, if there are specific people you are hoping to learn from you could always make an attempt to contact them beforehand. Offer to have lunch or just a coffee with them during a break in the conference, which will give you a chance to discuss ideas, theories and other aspects of your industry.

Above all, get contact details from anyone who you feel you can learn more from. You might be able to get them to come and deliver a seminar or talk at your workplace, or just continue conversing with you over email or telephone about the various aspects of your industry you can help each other out with.