Attending conferences and conventions are great ways to connect with other people in your field. But, have you ever attended a conference and come away with your head spinning? Gathered all that info and NOW what?
I attend conferences a few times a year because I always connect with interesting people, learn helpful new aspects about industry and deepen my overall knowledge as a professional. But, in order to not let that helpful information go to waste, here are my tips for putting it to good use:
1. Set aside time to DO something. You might not be able to do something right when you’re back, but schedule a date with yourself within 72 hours of returning. Information is fresh and you’ll remember who the people are as well as be able to decipher your notes.
2. Find an accountability partner from the event. I find that when I have someone to hold me accountable to apply the information learned, the whole experience turns out much better.
3. Be realistic about applying information learned. Coming back, it’s unrealistic to expect that you can apply everything right away. Look for a few early wins with small things you can check off your to-do list. This will energize you to keep going.
4. Pick 1-2 things you’ll implement in the first 30 days. Then pick another 1-2 things to implement in 60 days. Make sure that your accountability partner holds you accountable – and you hold them accountable too!
5. Schedule a date with yourself in 6 months after the event to check in and review the notes. You’ll see something you didn’t pick up the first time. Make sure to pick a day/time that is reasonable based on your day.
6. Business cards galore! I usually come back with a stack of business cards. The easiest way to manage all these new contacts is to put them in smaller stacks. Label each card with the date and where you met the person. I add which break out session I met the person.
7. Share what you’ve learned. If you’re working full time, look for an opportunity to share your biggest take-away with your team, your boss, a client, vendor, etc. Teaching them about what you learned – and this can be a simple 5 minute update – is a great way to pay it forward and lock the information in your mind too.
Whatever happens, just make sure to DO something with the information you’ve learned. If you do something, you’ll feel better about your career and the time invested in attending the conference. And the boss will feel better about the time and money investment of sending you to the event.