Conferences can be great opportunities to learn more about products, identify industry trends and network with colleagues. After hours of sessions, speeches and trainings, you’re headed back to the office with a head full of facts and a pocket full of business cards.
So what do you do with all those important notes, ideas and contacts when you’ve got hundreds of emails pressing and projects to address after your absence?
While it’s hard to take a moment for reflection, professional development isn’t necessarily restricted to one person’s experience – the whole office can benefit from what you’ve learned with a few simple strategies for sharing:
Commit to a one-week window to de-brief. Your schedule is bound to get hectic once you’re back in the home office fray, so carve out an hour as soon as possible to talk over the conference high points with your team.Your insights are sure to fade with time, so the sooner you can present your favorite tools, lessons and trends, the better. Tag-team with colleagues who also attended – comparing and sharing your perspectives in a timely manner does a service to both your memory, and your coworkers.
Break down your top five takeaways. This could be pretty hard if a conference presented a dearth of valuable content. But prioritizing your top five most important lessons will help you reflect on the information you’ve just been bombarded with, and make it easier for your colleagues to digest. Add resources to the mix – notes will help refresh your memory and give your team more insight into the depth of sessions or speakers. Most conferences post their session presentations, descriptions or videos online – pick and choose the topics that affected you most, and share out the links.
Quote words of wisdom. If you did take notes, you likely have little nuggets of insight from the speaker scribbled in the margins of your paper, your mobile device, or recorded somewhere. Sometimes a phrase or talking point can resonate more than the actual product or training session, so be sure to share some personal stories that stuck with you. If you want to see what affected other people at the conference, go to the event’s Twitter handle – people are always putting words of the wise into 140 characters or less.
Comb through those business cards – now! Most professionals skip this important step after conferences because of time! And it’s a shame, because it’s easy to separate your collection of business cards into three categories: follow-up, follow later, fall into the recycling bin. Not everyone you meet at a conference makes an impression – it’s okay to toss out some cards from the pile. But those you did link up with deserve a quick connection – either on LinkedIn, a shout-out on Twitter or a short email to thank them for their time or insight.
Don’t let the effort you’ve put into face-to-face networking or product training end on the last day of the conference. Develop your own professional growth by taking the time to reflect on what you’ve learned and sharing out the most valuable content – whether it’s training tips, visionary words, or even a few funny stories.