As a professional, it’s important to keep current on the trends and information in your field. Attending networking events, industry seminars and product presentations are all great ways to enhance your real-world knowledge. However, simply attending these events isn’t enough: You need a plan to put that knowledge into action.
We asked 13 members of Forbes Coaches Council how professionals can make the most of conference and seminar experiences. Below, they recommend smart ways to be proactive about your learning before, during and after these events.
1. Be Strategic About The Events You Attend
Choose the events relevant to your and/or your clients’ pain points or horizon topics. Read an article or blog before going so you ask pertinent questions that further your (and others’) understanding of the topic. Reach out to the speaker afterward (LinkedIn is great) and connect. Tell someone what you learned (we learn by sharing) and implement at least one item on your list within one week. – Sandi Mitchell, APEX Leadership Mastery
2. Commit To Taking One Action When You Get Home
We can feel so inspired at an event, yet we don’t make any changes when we get back to the “chaos” of life. So choose one action you feel inspired to take before you leave the event while you’re still feeling motivated. You’ll be more likely to follow through on it when you get home. Then, find a way to be accountable. Tell your friend, schedule it in your calendar or ask your coach for support. – Rosie Guagliardo, InnerBrilliance Coaching
3. Volunteer As A Presenter
Simply obtaining a management degree or any professional certification doesn’t qualify one to claim an expert. What makes experts is their ability to practice their crafts repeatedly. As such, practice is a translation of knowledge into evidence. Until a person has a body of work to prove their expertise, they cannot call themselves experts. It would be a great idea to present at conferences. – J. Ibeh Agbanyim, Focused Vision Consulting, LLC
4. Create A Clear 30-Day Plan
The best way to optimize the return on their time and investment is to turn learning into real results. They could create a compelling vision of what they’d like to achieve within 30 days, and then chunk this down into who they’d like to meet, what they need to learn and what actions they need to take to get there. This will give them a very clear sense of purpose both during and after the event. – Gabriella Goddard, Brainsparker Leadership Academy
5. Build Pre-Conference Relationships
The best conferences I have ever attended were the ones where I intentionally met new and established professionals before I traveled and attended the actual event. Introduce yourself and connect to those going via LinkedIn, by email and by phone with a relationship-building agenda before. Find out what you can about the “non-conference” social agenda and ways to connect outside the regular sessions. – John M. O’Connor, Career Pro Inc.
6. Be Genuinely Interested In Others
The best way to promote yourself at a networking event is not with an elevator speech, but to be genuinely interested in others who are there. Ask questions about their business and what challenges they’re facing. You may be able to help them, and then you can offer to meet with them. But maybe you can’t help them, so you refer them to someone who can; they’ll remember you for that. – Gregg Ward, The Gregg Ward Group
7. Teach Somebody What You Have Just Learned
I mention to my clients that if they pay for their employees’ courses, conferences and certifications, they need to ask them to share with their teams what they learned within a month after participation. Why? It creates a learning organization. And, more importantly, it helps the individuals who took part to systematize their knowledge. Teach somebody one thing that enlightened you. – Inga Bielińska, Inga Bielinska Coaching Consulting Mentoring
8. Follow Up
Knowledge acquisition and retention are usually a matter of personalized preferences; however, even those personalizations can generally benefit from follow-up. In this particular instance, it could be as simple as an email follow-up that includes a summary of the discussion combined with asking for feedback. The method is not as important as the gist of reaffirmation of such knowledge. – Kamyar Shah, World Consulting Group
9. Engage Your Senses
Research has shown that we learn better when we use more of our senses. When you are attending a conference, do your best to use as many senses as possible when learning. Take notes, have conversations, listen to the presenters and pay attention to the feelings that come up while you are there! – Brooke Schultz, Brooke Schultz LLC
10. Get Social On Social
Every conference present day has a hashtag and/or an app for the event. Leverage these channels to begin networking before, during and after the event. Before, conduct research on attendees and reach out to schedule coffee meetings with those of interest. During the event, share your experiences and takeaways. Afterward, use these tools to follow up and stay top of mind! – Kyshira Moffett, The KSM Group
11. Create An Accountability Partnership
We love to attend, learn, get pumped up to implement ideas—then come back and let all that excitement die. Next time, find a new friend and hold each other accountable. Decide one thing right then and there that you can implement immediately upon returning. Check in the week after the event, holding each other accountable. Keep setting monthly goals and check-ins to maximize the experience. – Lisa K McDonald, Career Polish, Inc.
12. Seek Mentors And Role Models
Your ideal mentor or industry leader should always be learning, just as you are. Chat up the attendees at your industry events to find role models who are doing great work (and these are not limited to the presenters). By getting to know them and staying in touch, you’ll gain a strong example of success in your field, and you’ll see how they are continually pushing their own careers forward. – Laura Smith-Proulx, CCMC, CPRW, CIC, COPNS, CTTCC, An Expert Resume
13. Connect, Be Curious And Ask For Help
Networking and training isn’t a one and done activity. Find people you really connect and resonate with and build relationships. Be curious about them, their learnings and their experience—you will gain from their perspectives and it will lock in your learning. Nurturing your network is what makes it valuable and rewarding. Stay in contact and take opportunities to help and ask for help. – Kimberly Roush, All-Star Executive Coaching