Plan your approach to communication conferences to make the experience worthwhile

This is the year you should take advantage of workshops and conferences to help you improve your employee communication knowledge. There are so many to choose from—from lunch sessions to three-day conferences—so you can find the learning opportunity that meets your schedule, budget and style.

But it’s not enough just to register and show up. To get the most out of learning, plan to take full advantage of the experience. Here are 9 ways to do so:

  1. Choose carefully. You don’t get out that often; make sure the conference you use will give you new insights.
  2. Set a stretch objective. One colleague set out to meet everyone at a regional conference with about 125 attendees. Another had the objective of “learning three things I could apply immediately.” By setting objectives, you’ll attend with purpose.
  3. Do some research. Find out more about speakers and their organizations. Investigate vendors. Figure out who you definitely want to spend time with.
  4. Keep “real work” to a minimum. If it’s not possible to leave your job responsibilities behind while attending a three-day event, then choose shorter programs that allow you to fully concentrate.
  5. Turn off your electronics. As David Baker writes in his blog, Life-Hacking Industry Events, “Distracted learning will yield a 10% or less retention of the content.”  
  6. Take notes, then summarize key points later in the day. Make sure you capture what matters to you.
  7. Be humble. Yes, you’re smart and experienced, but there’s someone at the conference who knows more than you about at least one topic. Find him/her.
  8. Ask questions. One of my colleagues tries to come up with at least one question per speaker. It’s a great way to pull information that relates to you.
  9. Share what you’ve learned with your colleagues back at the office and brainstorm what to do differently. Apply what you’ve learned and take action as soon as possible.

Bonus tip: Have a good time. Yes, you’re there to learn, but you deserve to take a break from your everyday responsibilities.
 

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