Attending conferences can be a great way to gain significant professional development, strengthen your network and to gain motivation and fresh insights for your work. Conferences typically provide a deeper experience with a higher investment of your time and money than typical workshops and events. Done right, you can leverage your conference experience to have a significant value in serving you well beyond the event itself.
Here are some ways to leverage your conference experiences:
- Be selective and know why you are attending.
- Pick conferences that fit the goals you are working on.
- In addition to the conference theme and topics, also look at who the presenters will be and the target audience for how they can help you reach your goals.
- Have a plan. Consider in advance which sessions you will attend and the types of people you wish to meet. Put time on your calendar to do these three things:
- Follow up with your best connections
- Go through your notes and materials to determine action steps from the conference
- Share the top things you learned with an accountability partner. This could be someone you met at the conference or one of your team members. By sharing what you learn, you better retain the information and are more likely to use and take action on what you learned
- The day of the conference:
- Arrive early, visit with the exhibitors, look through the conference materials. Don’t just drop by the exhibitor tables but engage in conversations with those businesses that could b a good resource for yourself or your clients.
- If attending with colleagues, don’t stick together like glue. Do find times to reconnect throughout the day to share highlights and to introduce new people to each other.
- Divvy up the breakout sessions you attend so that you can make a plan to share the information afterward with each other.
- If attending on your own, push yourself outside of your comfort zone to meet new people. Introduce yourself to the presenters you most enjoyed. Find others you click with who and ask if they’d like to meet soon after the conference to compare notes and revisit what you each learned (see the accountability partner note above)
- Take notes on the information you find of most value. Consider also taking notes on the things you disagree on (i.e. If you are a subject matter expert on a topic being presented, notice what points you disagree or find to be useful new information you’d like to explore further). For example, there was a conference I attended nearly 10 years ago in NY that I am still learning from. Much of what I keep learning is from the cognitive dissonance part of the experience–the points where I disagreed, questioned or saw that something could have been done better. It is when we compare, contrast and stay open to new information that we better refine our own knowledge and what sets us apart from others in our industry.
- Leverage your attendance beyond the conference itself and be a great resource:
- Let your “out-of-office” message speak highly of you. Note on your email autoresponder and/or voicemail that you will be out attending the conference to become a better resource for your clients. People notice. Instead of being frustrated you are unavailable, it sends the message that you are proactive in better serving them in the long run.
- Post highlights on your social media of what you learn and who you meet. This way, your colleagues, clients and followers will also benefit from your experience.
- After the conference, blog about a key learning from the experience that relates to your area of expertise. This positions you as a subject matter expert and as someone who provides added value.
- Remember those dates we scheduled when we set our plan? Now is the time to act on that plan to leverage your conference experience after the conference:
- Follow up with your best connections. Start with one or two ways to connect (e.g. a personalized email and a LinkedIn request). Some ways to have multiple touch points include (spread out over time): Connect on LinkedIn or other social media. Send an email. Share a resource/idea. Offer to introduce them to someone else that would be a mutually valuable connection. Invite them to an event you’ll be attending or hosting. For uplifting ways to keep in touch with your network see my article, 10 Ways to Practice Networking Kindness.
- Go through your notes and materials to determine action steps from the conference. Take those actions steps and set a plan for when and how you will complete them. Do you need more information? Do you need to set a time to meet with someone? If this a “good-idea-but-not-now” item, schedule a time to review the information (even if not until next quarter or next year) or place it in a folder with other ideas/actions to revisit in the future.
- Share the top things you learned with an accountability partner. Whether you meet with someone you met at the conference or one of your team members do this now before the information becomes a blur. Not only will you gain new information and insights but you will be deepening a connection when you share what you learned with each other.
This may look like a lot of steps to leverage your conference experience but they are actually simple and worth putting in the effort. By taking these steps, you will gain way more value from your conference experience than what you invested. One conference experience can build and serve you well into your future.
Done right, you can leverage your conference experience to have a significant value well beyond the event itself.
Put these tips into place when you attend The WIN Conference: Stepping Up on September 21!
Win/Win Networking author and presenter
(and someone who is frequently at conferences!)