The 2017 CMConnect Conference is over ☹️. This year was my second year attending the conference as part of the social media team and my first year leading breakouts. You have probably figured out by now that I am a huge fan of the CMConnect Conference. Now that I have attended for a couple years, I have found some great ways to get the most out of my conference week. I wanted to share my best tips with you so you can have the best experience possible in 2018.

1. Get registered early.

The earlier you register for the conference, the cheaper the cost of admission will be. It will also give you more time to prepare and plan for your trip. You can already register for the 2018 CMConnect Conference here. The conference is being held in Brighton, MI on April 30-May 3. Get registered, and put the dates in your calendar as soon as possible. The cost is a ridiculously low rate of $59 right now.

2. Make a plan. 

The conference will begin to post breakouts on the website several months before the conference. Start planning on which breakouts you would like to attend. There is no need to schedule breakouts for this conference, so you can always change your mind at any time. If you love food as much as I do, you may want to begin scoping out the area for some great places to eat ahead of time. Oh, and I guess it’s important to find a place to sleep as well.

3. Bring a friend (or 2). 

Last year, I had the opportunity to hang out and share a hotel room with Angel, one of my dear friends from Texas. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to bring a friend with me this year, but because CMConnect is all about community, I made many new friends. The great news about this conference is that the cost is low enough to give you the option of bringing some of your team.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask. 

The CMConnect conference is different than any other conference I have attended. It is a smaller conference that is all about resourcing under-resourced ministries all around the world. Because of this, none of the speakers on the main stage or in the breakout sessions are paid to be there. We’re all there to help others in their ministries because we believe in the mission of CMConnect. Many of the speakers are willing to answer questions and share their slides, notes, handouts, and other resources with anyone who is interested. All you have to do is ask.

 Breakout Session

5. Get connected.

There are many ways to get connected with the leaders of CMConnect as well as with other people attending the conference. You can find people who will be attending through the CMConnect Conference Attendees page on facebook. This year, they introduced Slack, a group messaging app that allows you to create channels with specific topics. We used this great tool for connecting with others and communicating announcements. There were a couple more channels used for general chatting, communicating changes in breakouts, and most importantly, where the after parties were being held. They also opened up the ability for people to create channels about specific topics to have discussions about breakouts and upload notes. Of course, you can always just friend people on Facebook or follow them on Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat.

6. Go to the after parties.

After parties happen every night after the main session time. Basically, we pack out a local restaurant, eat great food, and hang out together. If you want to make some new friends and have some great conversations, go to the after parties. Resist the temptation to go back to your hotel room and order in pizza.

 After Party Fun!

7. Take great notes. 

Many of the breakout speakers will offer handouts for you to take notes on, and some will send you their notes if you ask. I would encourage you to take notes and write down the ideas/questions that come to mind during the sessions. I like to type my notes up electronically so I can save them and reference them easily (and because my handwriting is worse than a 6-year-old). If you are more into pen and paper notes though, get a specific journal or notebook for your notes from the conference. You will have so many creative ideas coming at you in four days, it can be overwhelming. It helps to know that you can go back and look through your notes to remember the important stuff.

8. Grab lunch or coffee with someone new. 

This conference is great about offering time slots for you to connect with others. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to connect with someone new. You can grab a coffee with them in the morning before the first breakouts, or get some lunch with them during the two hour break between the morning and afternoon breakouts. They brought back the food trucks this year. Praise the Lord! I ate most of my lunches from the food trucks on site, and found someone new to eat with every day.

9. Plan to implement ideas.

You are going to have a lot of ideas you will want to take home and implement in your ministry. This will take some stretegic planning to make it happen. Read over all of your notes from the week, highlight the ideas you want to implement, prioritize your top ideas, and start making a plan to implement them in your ministry. Remember, you are not going to be able to change EVERYTHING in a week.

 Blog Team

10. Volunteer.

One of my favorite things about the CMConnect Conference is that you don’t have to be from a mega church or a resource provider to get involved in leadership. If you are a writer/blogger you can get involved in the social media team. If you are interested in leading breakouts, you can submit your breakout ideas. There is a wonderful mix of less experienced and more experienced leaders involved in planning CMConnect.

What are your favorite ways to get the most out of the CMConnect Conference? I hope to see you next year!