I am a research accountant and part of my job is going to conferences to learn about different topics. I get lots and lots of CPE credits and I get to go to Chicago several times a year, so getting enough CPE credits is not a problem. For my industry, the majority of conferences are in Chicago.
My first conference experience was in Chicago for a FIN 47 (Asset Retirement Obligations) seminar. Three of us attended and we drove up the day before the conference. Henry (names have been changed to protect the innocent) wanted to leave after work since it was just a five hour drive, but I insisted on leaving at 8 am so we would have time to go sight-seeing. We went to the Navy Pier and did some serious shopping. The problem arose from Henry and Penny’s tradition of going to a ball game when they went on these little conference trips. I am not a big sports fan, but I agreed to go along. So after a full day of shopping we headed to Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs play a ballgame. All of the parking near the stadium was $40 to park. I said to go for it and I would pay for the parking, Penny insisted that was to much and told Henry to circle around and we would find something cheaper, I told Henry just to park and be done with it, Penny insisted that he find something cheaper, I told Henry just to park, Penny told him to circle around...Henry pulled up to the front of the stadium and told us to get-out-of-the-car. He then went and parked the car and joined us in our nose-bleed seats to watch the game. I can’t remember if the Cubs won or not, but we did have a good time. Unfortunately, the game wasn’t over until 11pm and then we had to find the car (which was many, several, a lot of blocks away and was only $15 to park) and drive back to the hotel. It was after midnight before I got in bed and the next morning I was exhausted. Penny and I were late getting to the conference room, so we had to sit in the front row. (Conference rooms tend to fill up like church, back seats first) I could not keep my eyes open and I felt so sorry for the presenter. It was not that he was boring or that the topic wasn’t interesting, it turns out I need my beauty sleep or no amount of coffee or soda pop will keep me awake. I took away nothing from that conference. I have no idea what they talked about and slept most of the way home.
Now when I go to a conference, I make sure to get to bed at a reasonable hour. It is hard because I seem to be the only one who needs a full night of sleep to be able to benefit from the lectures on the following day. There is a lot of peer pressure to stay out all night talking and socializing, but I resist and snuggle into my bed so I can stay awake during 8 hours of sitting still and listening quietly.
So my advice when you attend a conference is to concentrate on business and get plenty of rest. Just because you finally have some time away from your spouse and children is no reason to go crazy and stay out all night. Make sure, however, to build in time to go sightseeing. Try to take an early flight on the day before or a late flight on the last day. But beware, dinner plans are usually late and drag on for hours. Pay attention to the time or you will embarrass yourself and your company when you start snoring in the middle of a talk on derivatives and hedging documentation.