August 10, 2012 by Jeff Hurt
It’s the start of the fall conference season.
Some of my trade association colleagues are making their annual journey to the trade association Mecca.
Well, let’s not get too carried away with calling ASAE’s Annual Meeting and Expo Mecca.
Whether you’re attending ASAE12 or another conference, here are four smart, savvy conference tips to make your experience a success.
Conference attendees tend to stick together in packs. It’s easy to fall into a pattern of attending all the same sessions with your friends, sitting on the bus with those you know and only going to receptions or networking sessions with people you’ve already met.
Break away from the pack. Take the path less traveled by your friends. Expand your horizons. Seek out conference attendees sitting alone in hotel restaurants, on the bus or in sessions. That way you’ll meet new people and build new connections.
Many people feel like they need to attend as many sessions as possible, to learn as much as possible, to get the highest return on their registration dollar. How much of that information is retained and actually applied to the job?
Information at a conference is like a shower that is never turned off. You can stand under the shower and shrivel up, trying to scribble as many notes as possible with a waterproof marker. Or you can step away from the shower, dry off and take breaks from the constant information flow. Take some time to reflect on the new content and write some notes on how to apply those learnings when you return to the office.
Can you quickly recall the top five take-aways you had from the last conference you attended? Doubtful.
So how do you ensure that you retain information from your conference? By sharing the wealth.
Write it down. Type it. Tweet it. Repeat it. Post it on Facebook and LinkedIn. Discuss it. Do as many things with the new content as soon as you learn it so you can recall it.
Immediately following the presentation, recap your thoughts with others. If there’s a networking or discussion group following the presentation, join it and discuss your findings. When you return to your office, take time to share your new learnings with coworkers. In short, talk about it, often and frequently before you leave the conference halls!
The more you can repeat your new learnings and share your take-aways, the more likely you’ll retain the information and apply it to your job. Repetition is key to memory retention.
Canteens have a limited amount of space to carry an important life source, drinking water. Users must constantly refill them as they can’t force an entire year of drinking water into them.
While at the conference, don’t try to force an entire year of education and networking into a three or five day span. That’s unnatural and detrimental. When speakers provide content that resonates with you, write down their website or blog. When you meet industry influencers or smart thinkers, collect their social network profiles. Then visit their sites frequently, refilling your canteen with their fresh content all year long. That’s ensuring that your conference registration has a high ROI.
Repurposed from a 2010 post.
What conference tips would you add to this list? What rituals do you have before, during and after a conference?
Filed Under: Event Planning
Your first point is hard to do, but one of the BEST things people can do. Tell your friend or co-worker “I love you, I enjoy spending time with you, but if we are together at the conference then we both lose so much. If we split up and go to different sessions and meet different people… then we can re-group and share”.
While I tend to be guilty of this one, it’s a good habit to break: Praying to the smartphone deity when you get a free minute. Instead of checking e-mail, check out the people around you. It’s increasingly hard to do in our multitask-centric world, but as a wise man once said, “Be here now.”
Great post, Jeff! I find it beneficial to identify my learning goals BEFORE I leave for the conference and select which sessions I want to attend accordingly.
To add on to your #3 tip, I also find it helpful to share my action items with an accountability partner and promise to follow up with that person on a specified date after the confernece. Knowing someone else is expecting me to do something makes it more likely I will follow through.
A colleague once recommended having a few lines of inquiry, ones tied to your learning goals, planned in advance that you can use as you meet new people or reconnect with old conference friends. My standard (not specific to a particular conference) ones include:
-What’s a trend you’re noticing that is likely to impact our future efforts?
-What blog or person on Twitter you’re finding particularly valuable lately?
-Have you adopted any new habits lately that are really helping you achieve more?
-If I want to learn more about ____, who is someone at the conference you would suggest I connect with?
So true. If you split up and meet new people, then you can bring them back to your professional circle of colleagues. It’s a great way to grow the group both by sharing what you learn and adding new people to the circle.
Thanks for reading and sharing too.
Beautiful addition! Yes, sometimes we need to put down the mobile device and live in the moment. Thanks for reading and adding that tip to the list.
Great idea to find an accountability partner to share new conference learnings with and how you’re going to apply them. Love that tip. Thanks for adding it to the list.
Fantastic questions to take with you to events and conferences. I really like your #2. So glad you added them to this conference tip list.
Great ideas! You may want to travel farther to go to a conference to really put yourself out there. People tend to go to ‘local’ events and miss the unique opportunity to mix it up with people from further abroad. Consider break out sessions – conference-sponsored or, of your own making, to continue the dialogue and share ideas. Perhaps an offsite networking session promoted in social media? Share industry sites and sources of additional information. Lastly, followup with new connections. These could become great sources for creative fresh thinking and sharing of strategies and ideas.
[…] 3. Know when to take a break. A lot of information packed into a small amount of time can lead to burn out for the best of them. Jeff Hurt shares this advice on his blog, “Information at a conference is like a shower that is never turned off. You can stand under the shower and shrivel up, trying to scribble as many notes as possible with a waterproof marker. Or you can step away from the shower, dry off and take breaks from the constant information flow. Take some time to reflect on the new content and write some notes on how to apply those learnings when you return to the office.” -Jeff Hurt, JeffHurtBlog […]
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