Attending a Conference? How to Bring Back the Most for your Team
Written by Tiffany Hallett
Conferences are like field trips for professionals.
Think about it. Your days are pre-arranged by the unknown. You’re not stuck behind a desk or trying to figure out what you’re going to eat for lunch. You’re on your feet, indulging in a new adventure that brings fresh ideas to the surface.
You may have an inkling of what to expect, but a sense of excitement stirs within. However, unlike field trips, your entire office isn’t catching the bus. In some cases, you may have an associate or two, but mainly you’ll find yourself solo.
So, how do you share this exciting experience with others? How do you fill their brains with new ways of thinking—or just give them a break from the daily grind?
Be the champion in the office—that’s how. Support your co-workers and organization by prepping them and yourself for the conference. You wouldn’t run a marathon without proper training. Why walk into a conference cold?
On your next conference endeavor, challenge yourself to complete the following three steps:
Step 1: Get the dirt before you pack your bags.
You may have an idea of what the conference has to offer, but do you have a deep understanding of the content and the speakers behind that content? Get to know the agenda—like really get to know it.
Research speakers. You would be amazed at how someone’s backstory and professional experiences would entice you to attend their seminar versus just reading their seminar title and/or description. Go beyond the speaker bio for more digging on the people who stand out to you. Are they a part of networking groups that you could join prior to attending? Connect before the real connection.
Research your team’s needs. Don’t just attend the conference with YOU in mind—attend with your TEAM in mind. Once you’ve become familiar with the agenda, hold a team meeting to inform them of the opportunities ahead. Gather their feedback on certain insights that would help them in their day-to-day workloads and strategic initiatives. Remember, you’re the champion of the office.
Before heading out, collect your team’s business cards. Yes, they are more items to carry, but trust me, keeping them handy will save you time making connections in the future. If you think that one of the speakers or professionals you’ve met would benefit from speaking with someone on your team, hand over the card. Voila!
Ok, now it’s time to pack.
Step 2: Field trip time. Navigating the grounds.
You’re checked in, badge on, with agenda in hand—you’re ready.
As you adventure from seminar to seminar, how do you plan to capture content? Paper and pen? Digitally through your laptop or mobile notes app? Either way you choose, organize your notes by seminar name and speaker. Sounds simple, but it’s important to separate your thoughts by seminar to be able to better relay information back to the team or to conduct more research.
Speaking of bringing content back to your team, don’t be shy to fire off content immediately! You don’t have to be formal but tell your team something intriguing while the experience is still unfolding. You can email them or even text if you get down like that.
When it comes to networking, have an introvert’s frame of mind. Say what? You might think that extroverts are the best at making new connections in larger crowds, but their openness can sometimes be a game of catching up rather than new conversations. To help get the most out of attending, set one goal of who you need to meet and the type of information you’d like to obtain. You may already know exactly which ‘hot shot’ to engage, and other times you may just know you need to find someone in a specific field.
Use your time at the conference to rejuvenate your career drive, get fresh ideas, and walk away feeling like you’re a boss.
Step 3: Back in to the daily grind.
Now that you’ve taken it all in, there’s nothing better than coming back to work refreshed with new ideas or strategic initiatives for the team to dive into. Before you get too involved, make sure you thank those who supported your professional growth. Writing a thank you note or posting a shout out to your company on social media are thoughtful and easy ways to show your appreciation and team spirit.
How do you plan to disseminate valuable content? Email? Presentation? Water cooler chats? It may happen in all those ways, but as the office champion, it’s on you to schedule a time to present findings to your team. You should have this pre-scheduled before you leave, as schedules will continue to fill up while you’re attending the conference.
A face-to-face exchange on what you experienced shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes. Call out the top 3 findings and any qualified leads that you met. Discuss your next steps in implementing new initiatives and/or following up with key contacts. Use this debrief to get your team’s consensus on moving forward together on any new ideas.
You’ve done it! You’re full circle. With your prepping and sharing of resources, you’ve accomplished a lot. Be proud that you’ve just set the team standard for being a conference attendee.