Many of us are searching to make an impact in what matters most to us, but one bit of stimulation isn’t worth a conference admission fee. So in the search for better performance your attendance at these events should be coupled with high expectations and a concerted effort to reach them. Conferences shouldn’t just be a resource treat.
Keep these things in mind to take full advantage of your next conference.
Make your own schedule
Delegates can fall into the trap of mindlessly following the conference schedule. Remember there are plenty of opportunities to grow outside of the presentations. During the last conference I attended, there were more interviews for positions being held in backrooms and during coffee breaks than you can imagine. What you see on the conference schedule shouldn’t necessarily be your schedule.
Have clear goals
As you walk into the conference each day have outcomes in mind. You may be trying to meet new people, acquire some expertise, get some industry insights or consolidate existing relationships. Are you there to grow your professional brand, learn to improve or climb the “ladder” in your area. Being clear with your goals keeps you focused amidst the swarm of activity.
Plan your interactions
Set up one on one chats with targeted attendees beforehand. You can meet at the conference or off-site individually and invite them to invite a colleague that will add to the conversation. You may choose to have a larger group gathering. The quality of this time is important. There should be time set aside for uninterrupted discussions on matters of interest with peers in your industry.
Related: Dear Coach Educator
Choose topics wisely
As there are typically multiple sessions running at once, choose the topics where you have less experience and knowledge. We tend to gravitate toward what we know and subjects we would feel comfortable discussing. Remember presentations, outside of case studies, tend to basic anyway, so if you have knowledge in that are you may not learn.
Utilise the Q&A
The most fascinating, underutilised time during a presentation is the Q&A. Ask about the failures, mistakes, problems and obstacles. We can all agree we learn more from dealing with these encounters than with success. Getting insight into what perhaps should have been done differently, what the expected results were and how the information is now being implemented is invaluable.
Communicate up, down, and sideways. Regardless of your own contentment level, the reality is that most people are trying to climb the ladder. I remember a great piece of advice a revered coach gave me when I was hired at my first “name” organization. He said, “Don’t forget the little people”. It wasn’t his words as much as how he said them. This memory is a reminder to demonstrate a value and respect for everyone regardless of their current position, experience or reputation.
Gain one key message
Typically there is plenty going on at a conference. You should aim to whittle each session down to a centralized theme. Take one specific point you could use directly or adapt in your own environment.
Research the information
Find information that challenges your view and requires you to follow up with your own research. Remember your research and own justifications must be solidified before you to change what you do on a daily basis. Do not fall into the trap of just implementing something because a presenter who you perceive to be a leader in your field says so.
Make the adjustment
Review your notes as soon as you return to your area. After researching them, find ways to implement the things you believe are going to make a difference…slowly. Remember there are several factors that effect the successful implementation of a strategy and the presenter doesn’t know your environment as well as you do.
Share the knowledge
Maximise what you have gained by sharing it with your peers and team members that weren’t in attendance. We are all on a knowledge quest, and it’s ok to over-indulge. It is likely you will learn from the feedback of people who weren’t in attendance too.
Conference can turn into The Great Business Card Exchange! Afterwards you generally have a small tree worth of cards. Make sure to write on each one why you’re going to follow up with them. If you can’t think of a reason, get rid of it. If you have said you’ll call someone or meet with them at a later date make sure you do.