If the event does not help you think differently, do something more effectively or, succeed at something that you would not have otherwise done, there is no event value. Whether you feel good about the event or not, the measurable success criteria is value.
If you read my last blog, you know my objective is for you to have a way to first determine if conference attendance is worth it, and second, to squeeze every bit of investment return from attending – much like a seasoned tax accountant in preparation for year end.
As promised, here are my 9 Steps to Get the Most From Any Conference:
- Preparation. Make a list of your needs, team needs, and company needs - general and specific. Here are a few examples of good preparation:
- Look up each speaker, create draft outline based on their topic description (for example, if the title of the presentation is "5 Ways to X," you can prepare to take good notes by setting up a list with space for 5 items.)
- Align your social media. If you have a marketing or social media team responsible for your online message, plan the type of information to tweet, post, share from the conference in a way that aligns with your marketing strategy, keywords, hashtags, advertising, etc.
- Attendance matrix. Which sessions will you attend and what is the outcome expected? If you are attending with a group, list their sessions, too, and complete the matrix together. You might set up your matrix with columns for speaker, credentials, room location, etc.
- Determine RYG success criteria to measure conference success. Set the criteria before you go to conference. Set specific networking, breakout session, and conference targets. Imagine having two competing sessions that you’d like to attend. You can only go to one. If you have specific written expectations from the session, you’ll more quickly know whether to stay. If you stay, you gain by better listening for what’s needed and asking better questions for clarification on points that matter to you. And, if it’s a repeat session, you could ask other attendees whether your target needs were covered before you ever attend the session.
- Be selective. A kid in the candy store wants everything versus an adult in the buffet line knows to choose. Choose by hunger, diet, or health needs, but don’t go for everything in the buffet line. For conference attendance, select sessions specifically to meet your determined goals so you don’t overeat from the buffet of opportunity. Being selective prevents information overload. Don’t try to go, see, do everything while missing the full value of the sessions you attend.
- Invest Wisely. In personal finance, you protect yourself with diversification. In conferences, you gain more from the 80/20 Pareto principle whereby 80% of value is in 20% of the sessions. On the exhibitor floor, 80% of the value will come from 20% of the vendors. From your team, 80% of the conference value will come from 20% of the attending team. Invest conference time wisely.
- Plan for downtime. Any conference longer than two days requires some downtime to absorb what you’ve learned. Give yourself time to refresh your notes and ideas. Writing crystallizes thought, thought produces action, RYG criteria, and a due date make it SMART. This time could be planned immediately after each session (before you rush off to break or lunch), at day's end (before heading out to dinner), etc. Put this planned time in your conference agenda if they have an app, or create your own conference agenda including extra time to absorb great ideas gained.
- Be a great networker by having a plan to network. What industry, company, or person would you like to further connect with? Here are some networking tips for conferences:
- Enter yourself in your cell phone as a contact with all the information you want others to have (title, address, phone, picture, social media, website, etc.) and then share yourself as a contact with new people you meet.
- Utilize speakers as resources – even if you did not attend their session. Ask for materials, see if they can introduce you to other connections, etc.
- Be careful not to be a user, but instead a giver.
- Ask questions. Remember the adage: if I hear I forget, if I see I remember, and what I do I understand. Articulate questions and interact with the speakers and participants to help solidify what you’re learning.
- Debrief. Either capture notes at the end of the conference or have a debrief meeting if team members attend.
- Write or call your boss/team before the conference is over and offer highlights and updates. In most cases, it’s best to wait until your return to share ideas for implementation unless they relate to a pressing issue or opportunity. Put a reminder for this in your calendar and in the future, watch how much easier it is for you to get conference approval compared to your peers.
- Set a face-to-face appointment with your team or your boss before you leave for the conference. You could share learnings before a standing meeting, after a standing meeting, over lunch, etc. Set the expectation that anyone who attends a conference is expected to leverage the return on conference investment by teaching others on the team. Set this meeting in your calendar.
- Measure the ROI. This one is tough, but worth the attempt. It will help you justify whether to return to the same conference in the future and allow value comparison of one conference to another.
You might use this formula to determine ROI:Determine your Total of direct and indirect costs. The direct cost of travel, hotel, meals, conference attendance, etc. + The indirect cost of preparation time (hours x person’s hourly value), hourly value, lost opportunity, etc.
Generated value = success metric dollar value * number of times success metric was achieved
ROI = (Generated value – total cost) / total cost
Now there is no excuse for you to not be smarter after a conference. Discover details on our Breakthrough Conference, October 18-19 and use the above 9 steps to prepare for great value. Attend and you're guaranteed to be smarter when you leave. I look forward to seeing you in Charlotte!