By Lisa Evans MBA
Attending a conference can be daunting as well as inspiring. As a life-long learner, I attend a couple of relevant conferences every year, and as a conference speaker, I participate in many more.
Last year I attended NSA Influence the largest speaker conference in the USA. I went to learn from the best. The venue was huge, the list of speakers and the choice of topic stream vast, and there was precious little time for consolidating information and connecting. As I’d made a significant investment in time and money, to travel from Perth to Dallas to attend, I thought about how I was going to get the most out of my experience.
I recently participated in a conference (as a speaker), and there was a large number of delegates in attendance. It struck me how people seemed to be continually scurrying around, eyes to their phones, checking the conference app to find out where to go next and how to navigate the large venue to get there in time before the next session started.
I wonder how much learning takes places and what amount of knowledge people retain.
Attending a conference can be costly, and unless there is a solid ROI, it is hard to justify the expenditure unless there is a significant gain.
I came up with a pre and post conference plan that helps me get the most out of any conference that I attend as a delegate.
Six tips to help you get the most out of attending a conference.
- Determine what your learning needs and your knowledge gaps are and do some research online to find which of the speakers are the experts in the field. I suggest choosing one knowledge gap per day of the conference, which usually ties in with choosing one stream, so you focus on learning and don’t get information overload.
- Download the program in advance and determine what speakers/streams you would like to attend. Stick to your goals. It’s easy to be blindsided by sexy talk titles! Sometimes titles can be so obscure that it is hard to know what to expect. A good program will include learning outcomes or key takeaways. If there is a lot of choices and maybe several speakers that I want to listen to, I will search deeper on the topic and speaker. Check for social proof of their expertise and connect and engage with them on LinkedIn.
- Use the conference app (if there is one) or program to map out your agenda. Factor in enough time to get between the different rooms and time for refreshments, ablutions and connections!!
- Apply the 5-minute rule. Time is precious! If you don’t feel that you are in the right room after five minutes, leave as discreetly as possible, and go to a different session. I usually sit on the end of a row so that it is easy to get out during these five minutes. Don’t feel you have to sit it out. It’s your time and your development.
- During the talk, keep notes to a minimum and scribe only the things that you plan on implementing, then turn it into an action list. I usually add a priority number to the actions. If the speaker has a link or some giveaway make a note to download these. By only writing down what you plan on using, you will end up with fewer notes that are relevant to you and a manageable action list.
- Set up some form of accountability after the conference. After I came back from Influence, I posted in an online group seeking others who had attended and were interested in forming an accountability group. Three people responded, and we have been meeting monthly online ever since. At each meeting, we talk about what we have implemented from the conference learning, and what impact that has had on our business.
Don’t be lured by the quirky titles that are competing in the breakout war. Check out the speakers to make sure you are attending the right session for you.
Lisa Evans, MBA is the Director of Speaking Savvy and the Founder/Curator of Stories From The Heart. An award-winning speaker, Certified World Class Speaking and Storytelling Coach, TEDx Speaker Coach, Author and Improvisation Actor, Lisa works with leaders to mine, refine and deliver captivating stories for their business and brand. Whether it is the boardroom, platform, podium or stage, Lisa will help you craft a powerful presentation with compelling business stories that are hard to forget.