Conferences are an exciting and an important opportunity to develop as both a professional and a leader; whether the conference is online or in person you gain new insights, generate new ideas, and leave inspired and excited. However, without the proper preparation, the impact may not be as transformational as you may have hoped. Fast forward a month or two after attendance — reality has slowly started to set in and you can barely remember what those insights and ideas were. You’re not alone, in fact you’re in good company, however, with proper planning you can make sure you’re getting the most out of your time out of the office.
For years, we’ve encouraged our Members to start any meeting or activity with the end in mind. By that we mean, identifying what you want to get out of the meeting before you arrive — and not something jotted down on the fly. Dedicate a good amount of time to review the agenda and consider how it can tie into your organizational goals. For example, a goal might be to gain no less than three new revenue generating ideas before you depart. If you need to strengthen your professional network, an objective may be to connect with three people who are successful in an area that you want to grow or improve in your practice.
Making the most of a multi-track conference is a team sport. When reviewing the agenda, determine who from your team will be attending the Main Track sessions and who will be benefiting the most from the Breakout Track sessions. By diversifying which sessions your team Members attend, you’ll collectively gather a wealth of knowledge and ensure their time is well spent in the sessions that meet their unique positions.
The best time to reflect and solidify new lessons learned is while that information is still fresh. Have a daily huddle with your team each day of the conference. This is an opportunity to fill in your teammates on what you’ve learned while also creating accountability for all in attendance. Be sure you have a plan to spark productive reflection.
You’ll want to:
- Identify action items from the sessions you attended AND most importantly, the deadlines you’ve assigned to these action items.
- Is there something you can do NOW (schedule a meeting, block time on your calendar or send an email) to get this project started while you’re still attending the conference?
- Identify ideas to implement at the office – can you set up a shared Google Doc where you and your team can add ideas as you are inspired? Take advantage of being in front of your computer and take your notes in a shared Google Document!
Set a reminder to focus on these questions at the end of each day or during a break. You don’t want to skip these steps because you will forget with information overload throughout the week.
An additional consideration to make prior to attending the conference is how will you get outside of your comfort zone? Make a game out of trying something new. Set a daily activities checklist for yourself. For example:
- Connect with 1 new person (use the Event App to send a message, use Zoom chat to say hi, or unmute and chat during a networking break)
- Add a social media post about your on-going education using the hashtag #AcademySummit
- Set a time to connect with a sponsor to see if they can improve your results or systems
The last piece of this puzzle is follow through. Prior to attending the conference, schedule a recap meeting for you and your team when you return to the office. In this recap meeting you will flush out the new ideas, identify deadlines and action items for specific team Members.
So before your next meeting or conference, start with your ideal end in mind. Create intentional goals with your team, then bring back those items or ideas to your team to get the ball rolling.
Director, Projects and Event Planning
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (858) 453-2128