You attended conference and are walking away feeling invigorated and refreshed. With renewed vigor for your field of work, you sit down at your desk and move forward. STOP! Hold on a second. Too often we have experiences that move us, but we don’t do anything about it. We go home with our candle burning and sit back and watch it burn out.
To capitalize on the experience and make the most of it, you need to take time and evaluate the goals you had set. Did you reach them? Come up short? Whatever the outcome, it is time to make a plan going forward and snowball an inspirational to a transformational experience. Let me share a few of my thoughts with regards to what you can do.
Read Through Your Notes
Hopefully, throughout the conference you were diligently taking notes or actively Tweeting. Take time to go back over these notes and look to apply what you learned. During the speaker or panel, you most likely had thoughts on how you can improve yourself or your organization. By regularly reviewing your takeaways, you can set appropriate goals and take action on what you gained. An article on the New England College website states, “Research has shown that retention of information decreases over time. In one study, participants on average were able to recall 50% of an important lecture after one day, 35% after a week and just 20% after two weeks.”
Gather Pertinent Information
As you unpack your bags, it’s easy to just store the stack of business cards you received. What takes effort, but makes a huge difference is to properly catalogue them in a useful way. I created a running spreadsheet of all the contacts I have developed in my industry over the years. From their card or the notes on my phone, I store their name, contact info and write relevant notes about the individual. These notes include what we talked about, where we met or any action points we had made going further. I also have a few columns after their information to indicate dates for follow-up (keep reading for an explanation). If you prefer to just use the cards, pick up a rolodex from the thrift store, or buy a binder to store them in for easy access.
If you also received any handouts that are of value, either take time to type up some notes from them or take a few pictures so they don’t just slide to the bottom of a never ending stack of papers.
Stay Active on Social Media
The conference doesn’t end when you go home. Keep chiming into the conversation on social media using the hashtags used during the conference. It can also be important to connect on LinkedIn (and maybe other platforms if you got close) and continue to foster those relationships. This will also help with the ripple effect and your connections can continue to grow. You also may have the opportunity to write about your experience or find others who did so. Sometimes you might have missed what they learned and this could catch you up to speed.
Solidify Those Connections
This is the game changer. If you don’t attempt to foster the relationships developed, they won’t be of any value to you. Remember those columns I just mentioned? I write sit down and plan dates when I want to reach out to those connections. Usually, I will write an email or send a note within a few days of coming home to thank them and indicate interest in staying in touch. Then I set a date to reach out to them in the near future.
These communications in the future don’t have to be elaborate and should definitely not just be to ask favors. I love these statements from a Forbes article written a couple of years back, “Take the lead and expect nothing in return. Most people are wired with a reciprocity mentality; continue to do this, and you’ll grow a positive reputation as someone who pays it forward. People will be attracted to you and will want to help you in return.” I have tried reaching out during the holidays to wish them well, shared industry related articles or asked questions to further my personal abilities. Most professionals will take up a role as mentor or share information horizontally to their peers. Don’t underestimate the value of this follow-up experience, because that is how you can make a name for yourself in the industry.
Take a minute and share your most recent professional conference experience! What are you doing to grow the most from it?