With the USKCA Conference now only a couple of days away, what better time to give you a list of ten tips to help squeeze the most from your experience at a conference or workshop.
1. Establish clear goals
Know what you want to get from the conference. The two overarching themes for will be either to improve yourself or improve your career but it’s important you know how to accomplish this. Specific insight on a subject? Meet new people? Strengthen bonds with existing contacts? Tout for a job or internship?
2. Know what you bring to the party
Some degree of networking will always be on your goals list; for it to be successful there needs to be something beneficial in it for both parties. Four questions you should think hard about before you go – Who are you? What do you do? Why are you useful to know? What can you do for someone? Be confident about what you offer but mindful that you balance that with not showing off.
3. Read up on the presenters
Familiarising yourself with the work of presenters before you attend will guarantee that you’ll take more from their presentations. Think about how their work applies, or not as the case may be, to what you do. Come armed with questions, discussion points or things you’d like clarified.
4. Plan your conference
Understand the format, dress code and any general rules. Familiarise yourself with the schedule and research any session choices you’ll need to make. Know how you’ll get there, what you’ll need to take (always have spare notebooks and pens) and, perhaps most importantly, if food is provided!
5. Make notes (…and make more than you’ll need)
Perhaps the most obvious point. Break things down into bullet points. Show how points link to one another. Make notes based on the points that are either important to the narrative or are otherwise useful little gems. Remember that note making is the opposite of cooking – you CAN’T add but you CAN take away – but you shouldn’t be making notes just for the such of it.
6. Always think ‘How does this apply to me?’
Chances are that you’ll come out of a presentation with a whole heap of interesting points that you’ve noted down. Whilst these are great to have in the bank, how many of these will actually impact on your job? Look to identify any key points which could be applied in your work. Clearly separate these potential action points in your notes. As its unlikely that a presentation will be directed at you personally, it’s important that you’re able read between the lines and look to make inferences based on the information you’re given.
7. Have questions and opinions
Questions and opinions are a great way to show that you’re thinking about and engaging with the content. They’re also a great conversation piece and a way to build relationships with potential contacts, particularly with the presenters themselves. Be sure to note down questions are you think of them, there’s every chance they’ll slip your mind if you don’t. Always take a polite, respectful tone.
8. Summarise key takeaway points
There’s a lot to take in over the course of a day at a conference, let alone two or three. Distilling every presentation into one or two takeaway points will make them easier to memorise and recall.
9. Follow up on EVERYTHING
Sadly, much of what goes on a conference stays on a conference. Go through what information you’ve come away and make sure that you follow up on everything that could be useful. This could mean getting in touch with new contacts and reinforcing your meeting with them or looking up that YouTube page with the Excel resources that somebody told you about. Why not also send a quick email to thank presenters for the time and effort they went and let them know how much you appreciate.
10. Redraft your notes
In the week following the conference read through your notes and re-draft them. Be ruthless in cutting away the fluff. Gather all your potential action points together. This should leave you with just the important stuff. Now it’s up to you decide what the hell you’re going to do with it!
Do you have any great tips that I’ve missed out? Please drop a comment below if you have any gems!