In a few days, I will be attending one of the best Lean Thinking conferences in New England, The Northeast Lean Conference. As I prepare for the conference this year I thought I would share some advice on making the most out of your conference experience.
Sharing with like-minded people who have various experiences can create a support network for continuous improvement and learning. Professional groups that share your interest in a particular topic, offer a great forum to learn and share. Special interest groups within these groups can offer further topic specialization and can be a tremendous way to learn or be mentored.
Industry associations and trade organizations offer a variety of training options, including conferences, seminars, certifications and more. There may be a cost associated with some of this training, and access to some of the resources may require membership.
By attending conferences, trade shows, and workshops you can find quality teachings. Guest speakers entertain, educate and inspire their audiences through motivational and informational presentations. They are particularly good for networking with others that you can learn from and share with.
There are some tips you should consider to make 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.
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.