Previously, when I had attended conferences, I had used them to attend as many seminars or talks as I could physically get to. Then one simple book laid out the problems with such an approach. The big thing to remember is that there are only going to be a few sessions that you simply must attend because you can't get the information anywhere else. This is typically because the presenter is lengendary in their ability to communicate the material in person, not because of the material itself. I've been to a few of these: Ken Henderson, Mark Russinovich, and Dan Kaminsky are my top three. But otherwise, realize that a lot of the session material can be found rather easily, especially in today's environment. So much is on-line now. Also, PASS makes available recording of the presentation from the Summit.
The Big Takeaway: Networking
So what's the big thing you should be doing? Networking. Meeting people face-to-face is always preferable to over the Internet. Sitting down and establishing a connection. In other words, establishing a new relationship or building on an old one. If you're like me, and painfully introverted, this is going to be difficult. However, the big takeaway from a lot of conferences are the folks you meet. The bigger the *real* network that you have around you, the better off you are. Those in your network provide job opportunities, advice, and help with issues. In addition, they can provide a sense of satisfaction when you're able to provide those back to the folks you know. That's big from a professional persective.
Make a Personal Connection
But don't stop there. Also realize that as you network, you'll discover connections that go beyond the professional realm. For instance, Andy Leonard (blog | twitter) have often related something we're discussing back to a shared military background. A local IT manager and I attended The Citadel at the same time and have a great amount of shared experience, though we didn't run across each other on campus. Tom LaRock (blog | twitter) and I both root for the Yankees. These add to how we're connected and often times give us opportunities to talk and engage beyond just the professional. That means stronger bonds. And that's always a good thing.
Maintain the Connection
Once you leave the Summit, remember to maintain those connections. Use Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. Drop an email from time-to-time (Ferrazzi advises at least quarterly). If there's a chance to meet in person, such as at a SQL Saturday or over a baseball game, see if you can take advantage of it. But don't forget to maintain and build. This is probably the biggest area of letdown I see post-conference. Folks go their separate ways until the next conference. The time invested in maintaining connections is a small price to pay for the growth of those relationships and the benefits they provide, both personal and professional.