Last week I attended a great conference. It was an excellent conference but if I am not careful, it could be a complete waste of time.
You have probably been to a conference or a training program that really energized you. The content was great, you networked with some key participants, and you were energized to do great things in the coming weeks. You have to make an extra effort to get the most from any conference or you will lose most of what you learned.
Glad to meet you
When determining where to sit, make sure you sit with people don’t know. It’s easy to want to sit with people you have met before or with people attending the conference you already know. One of the most powerful benefits of any conference is the people you meet. This is your chance to network and find connections with people who are in your industry and think like you.
Additionally, at breaks, lunch, before and after each day, introduce yourself to at least one new person. I am an introvert which means, if I had my choice I would rather be left alone. It is a handicap that can prevent me from expanding my network. Networking helps me find connections with new friends who I can help or they might be able to help me. If you are also an introvert, I am here to tell you there are no excuses not to make connections with new people.
Afterward is the most dangerous opportunity to waste a conference. We are human and we quickly resort to our routine ways. In time you will realize you never did anything with the information you received at the conference.
- Within days of returning from the conference, schedule time to review your notes and materials. The first time you review the materials, quickly skim the information to pull out the biggest ideas you want to carry out. Transfer these ideas to action statements and add them to your to-do list. Make sure these actions have deadlines. For more about how to manage your to-do list, click here.
- Within a week, review your notes and material again but this time look deeper. Continue each week for a month of so until you feel you have pulled as many ideas to actions as possible. Of course add these actions to your to-do list with deadlines.
- To really get more out of the conference, do this same exercise 6 months and a year later. Put the dates on your calendar as a reminder. You will be in a different place professionally and mentally from the first time you reviewed this material. You will be surprised how much more information you will pull out.
Some people will say this is overkill. It just isn’t necessary to comb through this information this much. Try it just once with these steps and then decide for yourself if it worth it. What do you have to lose? If you don’t like it, don’t ever do it again. Following this process will also help you when selecting your next conference.
How do you get the most out of a conference you attend?
Who have you met at a conference that has really made a difference in your professional life?