With the intense focus on competitors and the bottom line, it is often difficult for IT professionals to keep track of constantly-evolving technologies and trends. Those who want to stay at the top of their game must take it upon themselves to stay current.

Conferences, seminars and trade shows are valuable sources of insight, and everyone — even IT veterans — should understand how to make the most of their time (and registration fees) at industry events.

Here are a few tips:

  • Broaden your scope: Don't just stick to what you know, or what you need to know right now. If your work centers on cloud computing, don't be afraid to attend sessions on security or A/V advances. Some of the most innovative breakthroughs happen at the intersection of different technologies. By moving outside your core focus, you might find ways to integrate other technology into your personal routine or identify new business opportunities. Even when other session topics or tracks aren’t directly relevant to your job or company, there are still lessons to learn from another expert's daily challenges and perspective.
  • Don’t forget to network: Networking is a difficult skill to master, and many professionals sell themselves short by skipping industry mixers and other opportunities. Networking is a chance to share and gather knowledge within a like-minded community. Treat it like more than just a meet-and-greet. Ask questions. Offer connections. Whether that means finding out what it’s really like to be a system administrator or trading service provider recommendations, these gatherings provide a focused time to benefit from others’ expertise, share your own, and advance your career.
  • Seek out relevant knowledge: Whether you specialize in channel sales, web development or analytics, it's not difficult to find events tailored to niche groups of IT professionals. For example, CompTIA’s upcoming ChannelCon event will feature discussions geared toward solution providers, vendors and distributors, on topics like managed services and the Internet of Things. But events that aren't directed at enterprise IT professionals can still be worth your time. Attending trade shows focused on consumer technology (like International CES), executive leadership and project management is a great way to balance out the technical skills you hone on the job, while expanding your network into potentially new sectors of business.

There are dozens of IT industry events per year, and hundreds more outside the channel. Not all of them will be relevant to your career and interests, but make it a point to attend at least a few. Try a mix of local and national events; local conferences tend to offer more intimate, actionable networking opportunities while national events excel in providing access to top industry thought leaders.

Knowing how to attend an event can be the difference between being present and being engaged. By learning to take full advantage of industry seminars and conferences, you can give your career the added momentum it deserves.