Making the most out of a conference can take some planning ahead. Southern Fried Science's David Shiffman offers a number of tips and tricks aimed at graduate students having a good conference, starting with going to one. "Few graduate students attend as many conferences as I do, but entirely too many don't attend any conferences. The connections I've made at conferences have resulted in multiple professional leadership roles, 2 publications (so far), tips for 3 small research grants, and numerous travel opportunities," he says.
Once you've settled on a meeting to attend, he advises to go through the program carefully to identify "can't-miss talks" and see who is presenting (and thus who will be at the meeting. That way, you can even email people you want to meet up with, for say a coffee or lunch, beforehand. That flows into other advice Shiffman has which is: Don't eat alone. Meals, he notes, are a great time to network.
Additionally, he recommends preparin an elevator speech, so that when you do meet new people, you can quickly get them interested in your work. And don't forget your business cards, Shiffman notes. They are an easy way to give out your contact information, and maybe lead to as many connections as he's made.