It’s conference season, and the challenge for most attendees is how to turn the hothouse of ideas they are exposed to into marked improvement back in the office. On his 99percent.com blog, Scott Belsky, CEO of the Behance creative network, offers five tips for getting the most out of a conference:
Separate wisdom from action
If you take notes – and you should – your notepad may be a jumble of scrawled momentary insights. The key is to separate the entries into two groups: wisdom, and actionable steps. Mr. Belsky’s technique is to place a star besides the ideas he intends to implement on his return. “The first thing I do after every conference is review the notes and transfer every starred item into my task-management tool. Some people I know use a different colour for the actionable stuff. Whatever your system, recognize that conferences are liable to overwhelm you with notations. You must enter and leave with a bias toward action to capture the gems for post-conference execution,” he writes.
Find a key takeaway in every talk
Given short memory spans and the many stimuli you will be subjected to in every presentation, it’s important to zero in on the central point. After each presentation, ask yourself what struck you and what you learned. It may be a tip to adapt immediately to your company, or a counterintuitive notion to ponder on your return to work.
Don’t be a slave to the agenda
The schedule the conference organizers handed you at the outset should not rule your life during the gathering. Yes, the presentations are important, and ideally you want to attend most and be on time. But Mr. Belsky points out that the greatest benefits of a conference are circumstantial, often found in the seams of the experience. For example, a chance conversation over coffee may be the most important moment for you, and it would be unwise to cut it short to rush off to a talk. Make sure the conference serves your needs by taking control of the schedule.
Flag business cards for follow-up
You’ll no doubt be trading business cards during the conference. Divide the ones you receive into two groups: those that you plan to follow up on for a specific need, and those you want to put in your address book but have no next step planned. For business cards in the first group, write your intended action on the card.
Get together with like-minded folk
Conferences give you uninterrupted time to mingle with like-minded individuals. “Don’t leave these benefits up to chance,” Mr. Belsky advises. “Reach out to your contacts beforehand and propose grabbing an early breakfast together, lunch, or drinks during the conference. Encourage each person to invite one to two people that they deeply respect, thus broadening the potential of the meeting.”