If you’ve attended a conference recently, you probably spent several days in a whirlwind of activity: attending keynote speeches and educational sessions, visiting exhibitor booths, and networking with contacts both new and old. Now that you’ve returned home, unpacked your stash of hotel room toiletries, and caught up on emails, it’s time to get back to the daily grind.
Or is it? Getting the most from a conference isn’t just about what you learn and who you meet during the event itself. In fact, it’s what you do after the event that can have the greatest benefit to your career or business. Taking the time to perform a few important tasks as soon as you get home can keep the momentum going, and maximize the investment you made in going to the conference in the first place.
Task #1: Follow Through
Remember when you told one of your breakout session tablemates that you’d send over a copy of your company’s annual report for him to review? Or the people you promised to connect with on social media? The first thing you need to do when you get home is keep those promises, because doing so will preserve your reputation and also opens the door to a stronger connection away from the conference. Keep notes on your smartphone or carry a small notebook with you throughout the event to keep track of what you agree to do for others. Keep track of what others offer you, as well. That way, if you’re waiting to read a promised article or to see photos from the event, you have a great reason to reconnect with that contact.
Even if you didn’t promise something to someone, the days after a conference (once everyone has returned home and had a few days to get back up to speed) are the perfect time to follow up with the contacts you made. A quick email to say hello and reiterate how much you enjoyed meeting him or her, or connecting on social media, helps ensure that your conference experience is more than just an exercise in collecting business cards.
Task #2: Find Your Action Steps
Believe it or not, the purpose of attending the conference wasn’t just to collect a new tote bag and some pens. If the organizers hired talented speakers from Leading Authorities or planned compelling educational sessions, you have a few great takeaways from the event. Organize and review your notes, thinking about the action steps that you can take as a result of listening to the motivational keynote business speaker or meeting with others informally between sessions. Identifythe points that resonated with you, which ideas you found inspiring, or even the things you learned that left you confused or concerned. Even if you don’t leave a conference with all the answers, this type of reflection can help guide you toward new learning.
Task #3: Share Your New Knowledge
If you are the only person, or just one of a few people, from your team who attended the conference, make a point to share what you learned with others. Share a short presentation during a staff meeting, for example, highlighting the trends you spotted or the knowledge you gained. If you participated in any breakout sessions or listened to any especially interesting speakers, share your new insights. Many conferences offer live streaming or playback of some or all of their sessions, so if you saw something relevant to your team, share it with them if you can.
Task #4: Evaluate and Assess
Conference organizers rely on honest feedback in order to improve their events, so if you have the opportunity to evaluate the event and your experience, take a few moments to share your thoughts. After all, if you don’t let them know that the session schedule was too tight or that the food options were lacking, they may never know.
You should also take time to assess your own experience and consider ways that you can get more from attending future conferences. What would you do differently if you attended again? Would you leave more free time for networking, or attend more sessions? Would you pack different clothing? Jot down a few notes so that the next time you head out of town, you can maximize your experience and avoid making the same mistakes.
The conference experience doesn’t end once you return home and put away the suitcase until the next trip. Spend some time reflecting, evaluating, and synthesizing what you learned, and get the most from your industry events.