7 Tips to Gain the Most Value from a Conference
Conferences. They’re great. But sometimes they happen in a such flurry, before you know it you’re home and three months have passed. You haven’t made progress or taken action on the awesomeness you learned. That can make it feel like a wasted trip.
Let’s talk about how we can gain value from the conferences we attend!
Three dear friends (Merritt, Michaela, and Trina) and I are meeting up (for the first time in person) at an conference in Nashville this November. During our bi-monthly Mastermind video calls we’ve been pondering how we’ll approach the event and acquire growth and meaning from it. All our brainstorming led me to create an organized, 37 page note taking printable for us. I’d would love to share it with you if you’re attending Christy Wright’s Business Boutique Event.
It has dedicated space for noting key take aways from each speaker and action steps you want to take after you arrive home. The printable is included below, along with 7 tips to help you gain value from this, or any conference.
1) Set your intentions.
What are you hoping to gain from attending? What would you like to learn? What connections would you like to foster? Think on it and write it down. Set meaningful intentions for yourself before you attend. This peaks your awareness when the event takes place.
I can’t wait to meet my Mastermind ladies and brainstorm all-things-business with them. There has been talk of popcorn and a dance party.
I’m looking forward to hearing Donald Miller’s talk on How the Power of Story can Grow Your Business. I’ve long been an avid reader of his books – from Blue Like Jazz to Scary Close. Excited to hear Jeremy Cowart speak on Creating a Life Masterpiece, too. His recent, successful Kickstarter campaign for the Purpose Hotel is incredible.
2) Polish up your online presence.
If you have an online presence make sure your bios are the same (or similar) across the board. Use consistent pictures. Check your branding — do you represent yourself similarly on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, your website or other social media that you use? Are you telling the same story, visually and with words, in each area? What about your email signature? This will help show who you are and what you do in a unified way for anyone who might connect with you online after the event.
3) Do your footwork.
If the conference you’re attending is out of town, or in a part of town you’re unfamiliar with, doing a bit of prep-work before you attend can help things run smoothly. Instead of using valuable time during the event figuring out where you’d like to eat, what you’d like to see and experience while there, do a little research before hand.
Come with a list of options you can easily pick from. This will help you spend less time making a decision about what’s next. It leaves more time for connecting with other attendees, speakers, and soaking up a new environment.
4) Pack early.
If you have the tendency to procrastinate, make a list of what you’ll need to attend. If the conference is out of town, pack a day or two early so you’re not up late the night before trying to pull suitcase together. If the event is in town, why not pack a purse or laptop bag with essentials the night before?
This will save you from stressing out over the details.
5) Come Prepared.
(Free Printable for Christy Wright’s Business Boutique Event)
For most conferences I’d bring a half-full journal and scrawl pages of notes while listening to the speakers. Sometimes I’d miss important opening remarks while trying to write down the presenter’s name and title of their talks. Things had a tendency to become disorganized and upon arriving home I’d have a wealth of new information with no way to process or take action on what I’d learned.
For Christy Wright’s upcoming Business Boutique Event, I developed a better way to stay organized.
I looked at the two-day event schedule and created a customized printable note taking booklet. It includes:
- Schedule of Events
- Titles of each talk + Speaker’s Name
- Room for notes for each session + dedicated area for key take aways and action steps from each talk
- Space to write in the title of the Breakout Sessions you’ll attend
- Blank pages for capturing ideas, brainstorms, new connections, and discoveries
Use the form below to receive your copy.
6) Make Space to Breathe.
If you’re an introvert like me, big events, while inspiring, can also wear on my energy reserves. The bustle of meeting new people, the wealth of information, and a new place can be overwhelming (fun).
If you’re in the same boat — make the most of scheduled breaks. Meet and connect with other participants, say hello, establish a few new associations and then take the last 10 minutes of the break as alone time to regroup. Maybe this means finding a quiet couch in the lobby of the conference venue or going back to your hotel room to sit with your thoughts and decompress.
Conferences often include high-energy entertainment. It’s lovely and I’m sure 80% of the population adores those moments, but if flashing lights and loud music/shows have a tendency to bring on a headache, there’s nothing wrong with quietly taking a break in the hallway until that portion of an event wraps up. Know yourself and listen to your needs so you can be present for the portions of the event that you’re most looking forward to.
Get enough rest. Wake up early, make room for prayer, stretch those muscles and center your soul.
7) Have Real Conversations.
Allison Fallon likes to say, “People will tell you to ‘position yourself as an expert’ [to be an author], but honestly, I’d rather position myself as a friend.”
I love infusing Allison’s viewpoint into my daily work and know it’d bring new energy into the conference setting.
Come prepared to answer the question, “So what do you do?” It will be asked often. But be ready to ask better questions and have real conversations with people. Instead of the usual networking-type questions what about these instead?:
- “What made you decide to attend this conference?”
- “Tell me about yourself.”
- “What are you dreaming these days?”
- “What’s fascinating you about your work?”
- “What kind of people are you most passionate about serving?”
- “What meaningful themes keep showing up in the work that you’re doing?”
- “What’s going really well in your life right now?”
- “If you could change one thing about the way your work is going, what would it be and why?”
- “Have you read any good books lately?”
- “What are your top three favorite blogs?”
- “What speaker has been the most meaningful to you and why?”
If someone gives you a business card make a note on it of a few key things you learned and appreciate bout them.
7) Follow Up.
I live in a rural area. Many of my design meetings are conducted over Skype with folks around the globe. Working alone from my home studio is wonderful but I don’t often meet folks in person.
A conference is the perfect environment to meet and make connections with people, face to face. When you arrive home be sure to foster those connections. Send them a friendly email, connect with them on social media. Foster friendships with the people you’d like to support and collaborate with.
What are your favorite tips for gaining the most value from a conference?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
And again, if you’re attending the Business Boutique Event in Nashville this November, here’s the form so you can receive the free Event Notes printable.