Tips for Getting the Most From Your Conference Investment
All professionals attend conferences, seminars, and trade shows each year. Through my observation and person experience here are my top tips for maximizing your time and monetary investment in these events.
1. Set goals for the event. Think about what you hope to gain from your attendance. Be specific and write them down! Consider your goals for specific content areas, specific questions you hope to have answered, number and kinds of people you want to meet and/or amount of new business you hope to gain. Goal setting here is like in anything else. Be specific, write them down and then focus on achieving them.
2. Invest some time in planning. Sit down before the event with the schedule or agenda. Think about which sessions will best help you meet your goals. Schedule your day to take best advantage of those opportunities. Often you find yourself with many good sessions to choose from. This is one of the values of your goals. Refer to your goals and let them guide you. You did bring that list of goals with you didn’t you?
3. Schedule your meals! Conferences are a prime time to learn in a more relaxed atmosphere. Schedule your meals with key colleagues, clients, presenters, or others you would really like to meet. You’ll be surprised how easy this is to do, even with people you don’t know yet, if you plan ahead just a little. Have too many people you want to have meals with? Invite more than one! Or schedule some meetings during a slower time during the conference program.
4. Network! Take advantage of all the networking opportunities available. If there is planned networking activities, be there early! Consider the Exposition or trade show as a networking opportunity (not only with the exhibitors, but also with your fellow participants. Who knows who you might meet standing in a line?) Have plenty of business cards and spend more time listening than talking. Don’t forget the time before a session starts when most people just sit and wait for something to happen. Don’t just sit there, network!
5. Capture ideas. Sometimes there isn’t much room but your lap to write during a session. Don’t worry! Follow your instincts and your best habits about the amount of notes to take. I urge you though to, at a minimum, to write down the action ideas you got during the session. These ideas might not even have anything to do with what the speaker is saying - no matter! Capture those gems so you have them for later.
6. Have fun! All of these tips require a little bit of rigor and planning - even this one! As you try to reach your goals and maximize your time, leave time for some fun and allow yourself the opportunity to let serendipity happen. If at the last minute your instinct says to go to a different session than the one you had planned, or to skip a session to get to know a new person, let yourself! It may be the best time you spend during the whole event.
7. Get some sleep. Conferences and shows can be long and harrowing. You will be at your best if you get some sleep. Too much of #6 (having fun) may leave you short on this one. Find some balance and get some rest. You’ll be glad you did.
8. Review your notes and ideas. Compare your list to your goals. How did you do? Take the time to prioritize the ideas you generated. Schedule the most important ones - with the rest of your tasks, giving them appropriate priority. If you can’t find time to implement what you learned, why did you go? Make sure you take action on at least the most beneficial of your new ideas. If you have notes beyond action ideas, consider scheduling a short amount of time each day for the next week to review those notes. The repetition will help solidify the new concepts and principles in your mind, increasing the learning you gained from the session.
9. Send thank you notes. You collected business cards as you networked right? Or made a note of the really fabulous session leader you listened to? When you get home, take the time to write some brief thank you notes. You benefit by sending positive thoughts into the world, as well as being more memorable to the receiver. True gratitude is important to acknowledge and share. Make the time to do it!
If you will take action on these nine tips, you will gain more from your conference dollar, improve the return on your time investment, as well as making the Conference more fun and a better learning experience.
©2000, All Rights Reserved, Kevin Eikenberry. Kevin is the President of The Kevin Eikenberry Group, a learning consulting company that helps their Clients reach their potential through a variety of training, consulting and speaking services. Go to http://www.kevineikenberry.com/speaking/speaking.asp to learn more about customized keynote speeches offered or contact Kevin at toll free 888. LEARNER.