This time last year, I was preparing for my trip to the South American Business Forum. As a student, I have been to many international and local conferences, and I can honestly say SABF was the best conference I have attended. This was mostly due to the amazing organising team, their dedication to excellence, and the quality of the delegates. However, the quality of a conference experience also depends on the delegate’s preparation and attitude. Here are some tips on how to make the most out of the SABF experience:

Before the conference:

  • Be prepared. You don’t have to do heavy research on all the topics that could be covered during the conference, but you should try and read on topics that you are most interested in. This means that you can contribute more during the sessions, and you may already get an idea of questions to ask speakers.
  • Have goals. Think about the top three things you want to get out of the conference. It could be anything from sharing your experiences with others, to learning about a particular topic or organisation, or talking to a particular speaker.

During the conference:

  • Add value.  If you are selected for SABF, it means the organisers can see your potential to contribute to the conference. You were probably selected because of your leadership experience, entrepreneurial mindset or other extra-curricular activities. So be prepared to share your unique experiences. Also, be prepared to share your culture- most likely, you will be one of few (if not the only) delegate from your country. Most of the valuable and memorable conversations I had were with delegates who I exchanged ideas and knowledge with.
  • Speak up. There will be many opportunities to ask questions and share your opinions, so make sure you take them. Speaking in front of 100 people can be daunting, but remember that they are 100 friendly, curious and open-minded people.
  • Be curious. You will meet people from all over the world and from different walks of life. There are some incredible students selected to be part of SABF, so try and get to know people and their stories. During my conference, I met a variety of people- from students who already founded their own start-ups, to leaders of student organisations, to students involved in NGOs.
  • Be open-minded. Ultimately, any experience is only as good as your attitude. You might encounter cultural differences, or opinions that are vastly different to yours. There may be things that don’t go smoothly, or as planned. When those things happen, take a step back and look at the bigger picture. What could you learn from the experience?
  • Take notes. The conference is only 3 days, but it is intense. I had so many epiphanies and new ideas come to me during the conference. Even now, a year on, I still refer to my notes and find that my understanding of a particular issue is constantly evolving.
  • Savour it. SABF is full of dynamic people, thought-provoking sessions and learning opportunities. Buenos Aires is a beautiful city with many attractions. Argentina is very rich in history and culture. Make the most out of everything! The same experience won’t be replicated again.

After the conference:

  • Stay connected. There won’t be many opportunities in life where you will meet so many different people from so many different backgrounds, all in the same place. Stay in touch with your newfound friends. The conversations that you started during conference can be (and should be) continued afterwards.
  • Remember the lessons. Take some time afterwards to reflect on what you have learnt, and how you can move forward with the knowledge.
  • Share the experience. Be open and proactive sharing your experiences- whether it’s through a speech, writing a blog, or spreading the word about SABF in your university.

To all those that have been selected for next year, I wish you the very best!