How do I know I’ve attended a quality conference? I leave energized, inspired and with a stack of business cards.
At most conferences I meet fantastic people and am inspired by a ton of fresh ideas and endless possibilities. I walk away with a long list of practical suggestions and some game changing strategies, and then reality hits:
- I am days behind on emails
- I have a pile of new contacts with varying degrees of value
- I have ignored colleagues, projects and life in general
So I hurry back to my office and before I know it, I’m back on the hamster wheel.
Recently after leaving a two-day conference, I realized this had to change. Almost all the value from a conference was lost because I didn’t have a moment to thoughtfully plan how to apply my new-found knowledge. I decided that I either had to stop spending money on conferences only to discard the learnings, or do something different that made the conference worth my time and money.
I decided to do something different and it’s working. Here are my tips for acting differently the next time you re-enter reality after a conference.
Starting with the obvious, you should do things, like:
- Connect on LinkedIn (take 30 seconds for a personal message)
- Send an email that says ‘great to meet you’ within 48 hours
- Follow up with anything you promised a new contact, like web links, an introduction, meeting time, etc.
- If a new contact really impressed you, mail them a personal, handwritten thank you card. No better way to stand out in a noisy online world.
But to upgrade your conference experience, I challenge you to try these three not-so-obvious must-do’s after an event.
- Set aside 20 minutes to use the new insights you’ve learned
For me, the best time to do this is shortly after I leave — usually on the flight home. I set an alarm for 20 minutes and reflect on the key insights so I can organize my thoughts. I think about how I can bring the inspirations and tactical ideas back to my team. Your company can benefit from your conference experience by taking time to thoughtfully bring back new strategies for consideration.
- Make the first move
If you’ve done a conference right, you’ve left with a healthy number of business cards, new LinkedIn connections, and Twitter, Instagram or Facebook followers. But let’s face it, not everyone adds the same value to you or your business moving forward.For those that can, devise a plan to stay in touch. For example:
- Is there an event that you could invite them to speak at?
- Is there information you could share, such as industry trends or hot new startups?
- If you’re interested in what they are building, then consider being more actively engaged on social channels
When reaching out in today’s social media world, remember to use tools and platforms that are easily accessible and give you the best chance to stand out.
- Commit to changing one thing for the better
We learn more than tactical skills from a conference. We learn how to be human. I once heard a CEO of a large company say on stage that during an elevator ride he asks employees what project they are working on. It gives the employee time to share (and shine) and provides insights he might not normally receive. This small change in behavior can make you a better manager, CEO or leader. If you listen for the non-tactical messages and commit to applying one, you could benefit in ways that will surprise you — and your team.
For me, the best conferences are the ones where I feel I’ve made meaningful connections and applied the messages I heard on stage to my personal and professional life. It really begins with taking 20 minutes on your way back to reality and then taking action.