How to get the most learning out of a professional conference

One of the best ways to convince your boss to let you attend (and pay) for a conference is to emphasis just how much you can learn and translate that back for the better of your team and the organisation at large. In the fast-paced society we are living in today, failing to keep abreast of industry developments is the consequential beginning of fast decline.

Once you are over that hurdle, just how do plan your time shrewdly to ensure you have enough material to take-away and not come away with information overload?

Before the conference, you should at the very least spend sometime looking through the programme. Note what may be of interest to your role directly and more importantly what you are unfamiliar with, that may help you expand your (and your organisation’s) industry perspective. For each session you choose to attend, write down at least one objective as this immensley helps you maintain focus on the day. Look up the speakers’ biographies, accomplishments and what they may have been recently involved in. Think of some questions or insights that could form the basis of interesting networking discussions. And don’t forget to review the latest sector news and developments.

During the conference, remember high on your agenda is learning, so be open to what others have to say, including both the speakers and the attendees. Learning is remarkably complemented by networking, so attempt to fully engage by asking questions and involving yourself in networking discussions. Remembering your learning objectives guides who your naturally oriented to network with and can also help you ask the right questions and make memorable comments. At the end of the day (or when you can spare some time in-between), review the session(s) and tick of your learning objective(s). Commonly though, you will find you have to note down further action to make sure the objective is achieved. This could be something like following up with a speaker, researching a mentioned development, or seeing a product demo.

Do not feel the need to attend back-to-back sessions. It is better to attend fewer sessions and come away with smart actionable steps, than to attend several sessions and bring back a wealth of information with little structure to make it useful.

After the conference, you must obviously share what you have learned. And even though you may be understandably exhausted and have a lot of work to catch up with, simply outlining what was said will never suffice. Your boss probably cares less that you attended a session with a trendy title and a celebrity key-note speaker. They want to know exactly how you propose the organisation will benefit as a result.  If you are at an executive level, perhaps you could (critically) explore future direction(s) that the company could take, or if you are in a management position, discuss the feasibility of the various methods you discovered on how to streamline operational processes. From the new connections you have hopefully made, take it a step further and recommend potential partners and recruits that could help your organisation in realising your proposals.

How do you make the most of learning at a conference? Share with us!



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