To stay on top of your career and ahead of your competition, you have to make learning a lifelong, ongoing process. Conferences, seminars, and workshops are acknowledged forms of training, information-gathering, and networking. They are usually short, practical, and up to the minute. But such events must be more than just a day away from the office. If you want to take full advantage of these opportunities to invest in yourself, you’ll need to be aware of the following advice…

1. Prepare yourself beforehand.

Your attendance and participation are investments in yourself, so don’t leave preparation to the last minute or allow ‘emergencies’ to limit your pre-event preparation…

  • Study the agenda, and focus on what you want to get out of the event.
  • Talk to your boss about the program and find out whether there is information you should concentrate on.
  • Do any pre-reading, recommended or otherwise, that will increase your knowledge and understanding of the topic. If the presenter or facilitator is the author of a particular book related to the event, read it. Take notes; list follow-up items and possible discussion points.
  • Consider and contact others attending from your organisation. Discuss with them thoughts and ideas triggered by your pre-work to date. You may consider still others who should be going and recommend their attendance – either to them or to their bosses. You might consider contacting those from other organisations who may be interested. Your actions will be appreciated.
  • Make a ‘learning contract’ with yourself by listing what you want from the event and will actively seek out.

2. Be determined to maximise outcomes.

Your attendance and participation deserve maximum results, so resolve to behave in ways that deliver those outcomes. Your list of resolutions might include these:

  • Be on time so that you don’t miss parts of sessions.
  • Avoid internal and external distractions.
  • Take risks and try some new behaviours.
  • Raise issues of concern to you.
  • Disagree with an opinion you think is wrong.
  • Be open to ideas or approaches you would normally reject.
  • Ask the speaker the questions that are on your mind.
  • Start conversations with strangers during the breaks.
  • Stay attentive and avoid the temptation to daydream.
  • Be optimistic that a problem you have can be solved at the conference.

3. Arrive early and network.

Look on your attendance as an opportunity to spread your network of contacts. Tom Peters in ‘In Search of Excellence’ says that ‘meeting your colleagues and friends is the most important aspect of a convention’. After registering, select a position near the door or the coffee service area where you can see and acknowledge most others attending. A mix of familiar and new faces will add variety to your networking. Don’t forget to include a presenter or facilitator on your list of networking contacts. Remember, the one topic that most people enjoy discussing is ‘themselves’. Exchange business cards and, if necessary, arrange follow-up meetings. Jot on the back of the cards points about the contact and where you met. Don’t leave it too late to take a seat at or near the front of the room.

4. Participate, listen, and learn.

Introduce yourself to those seated near you. Seize this opportunity to be proactive in the interests of your learning. Take notes, but be careful not to let your note-taking interfere with the act of learning. Remember, too, that people tend to record points with which they agree rather than those with which they disagree. Why not try writing down what you’re going to do with what the presenter is saying? Keep asking yourself: ‘How can I use this information to improve my job or my life?’ As well, jot down questions to ask at the end of the talk or at an informal gathering.

5. Share information on your return to the job.

Avoid post-conference paralysis. What can you implement in the workplace? What can you change for the better? Consider also ways to disseminate information about the event within forty-eight hours of your return to work. You may decide to include your summary as an agenda item at an appropriate meeting, assemble a group with an interest in the outcomes, send an e-mail, circulate a hard copy of your notes, or report outcomes individually. Use this opportunity to show how committed you are to your own professional growth. Others will be interested to see how you apply the information you acquired, so don’t disappoint them.

6. Set specific requirements if you send an employee.

Before the event, inform those you’re sending that you will require a succinct written report within forty-eight hours of their return to work. The report could include responses to the following questions:

  • How can the organisation directly benefit from your attendance?
  • Will it be possible for the organisation to recoup the cost of your attendance?
  • Would you recommend that other staff attend the event if it is repeated?
  • What immediate action should be taken to commit the organisation to an improvement process based on what you have learned?

Some extra tips…

Here’s an idea

So you have trouble keeping up with the speaker at a conference or seminar when trying to take written notes of what is being said? Why not get into the habit of speed writing where you lv out unwntd vwls & consnts & smply abrev whn poss & dvlp shrt cts.

Ask yourself

A conference or seminar can be quite an enjoyable experience for you and your staff, but just how valuable was the experience? To find out, after returning from your next conference, you should try to answer the following questions:

  • Was the level of instruction satisfactory?
  • Did I ask any questions or take part in discussions?
  • Did I network with other colleagues?
  • Did I learn anything that will make my job easier and more effective? What exactly?
  • Did I learn anything what would help my relations with colleagues in the workplace?
  • What am I able to pass on to my colleagues and how will I do that?

Conference networking tactic

One of the hardest things to do at a conference or function is to start talking to people you’ve never met before.

Here’s a strategy for making this easier:

The coffee or lunch queue is a good place to begin. Usually there are at least half a dozen people waiting in line. Strike up a conversation with someone in the line, and then continue that conversation when you leave the queue. But this is the important thing-talk to the person behind you in the line, so that you can wait for that person after you get served. If you start talking to the person ahead of you, s/he might get their coffee and move away while you’re still being served.

 

Here at Global Training Institute we offer a wide variety of qualifications as well as short courses to suit your needs. Wanting to delve deeper into management? Some of our courses include Diploma of Civil Construction ManagementCertificate IV in Project Management PracticeDiploma in Project ManagementCertificate IV in Frontline ManagementDiploma of Management – Business Management and the Advanced Diploma of Management. Some of our short course also include Business Succession Planning SkillsLeadership and Influence SkillsPersonal Productivity Skills and many more!

If you feel that this is something you’d like to know more about, please contact us on freecall 1800 998 500 or email Anne at [email protected]