Monday, April 14, 2014

Getting the Most Out of Your Conference Experience

ASQ’s annual World Conference for Quality and Improvement (WCQI) will be held in Dallas, May 5-7. In preparation for the conference this year I thought I would share some tips on making the most out of your conference experience.

1. Before the conference.
As Dr. Stephen R. Covey (author of the international bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) would advise: “Start with the end in mind.” Make concrete connections between the value the conference represents and your personal and professional goals. Outline several detailed goals that you are committed to and keep them in mind throughout this process. Explore the conference schedule. Be selective and strategic about your planning schedule. Begin by focusing on areas relevant to your interests.

2. Attend the sessions, listen, and learn.
Remember the focus of the conference. Whether it’s to meet new people with common interests or take advantage of being in a learning environment. Come prepared to learn. Listen to peers in conversations. Attend and participate in sessions. Soak up what you hear and learn to improve your business or yourself.

3. Network, Network, Network.
Conferences are a great opportunity to meet new people who have your similar interests, new and different ideas and great feedback for your business. Have a positive attitude, a stack of business cards ready to mingle, strike up conversations and start meaningful relationships.

4. Distill every talk down to one key takeaway.
Every presenter at a conference has his or her own style. Some people tell a story, sometimes there is a video or set of images, and sometimes there is a full slide presentation. Given our short memories and the great amount of stimuli, it is important to distill each presentation down to a central point. After each presentation, ask yourself what struck you, what did you learn? Perhaps there was a specific tip that you could adapt in your own work - or some piece of counter intuitive advice that really resonated. 

5. Follow-up.
Organize any materials that you collected at the conference. Make a list of the new things you learned at the conference and write down one strategy for each idea that outlines how you’ll incorporate what you learned in your daily work. Write up a summary of what you learned at the conference and share it with your supervisor. Offer to present a session or workshop on a particular topic to your co-workers. Follow up with any new contacts you made at the conference to continue the discussion.

Lastly, you should review the conference. While it is fresh in your mind, consider what worked well and what didn’t. Think about what you’d do differently if you attended again. Make a few notes for yourself that you can refer to when planning to attend again.

I’m part of the ASQ Influential Voices program. While I receive an honorarium from ASQ for my commitment, the thoughts and opinions expressed on my blog are my own. 

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