From Click To Stick: How To Maximize your Attendance ROI

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How many times have you attended an awesome conference or training/workshop, enjoyed yourself tremendously, learned a ton and became so motivated that you wanted to implement most, if not all, of the ideas and suggestions that were presented?

Then you get home and the reality of daily life presents itself; the conference  folder, notes and handouts sit somewhere in your to-do file until the next workshop. All you remember is that it was a great conference, something “clicked” and the speaker was phenomenal. You trust that everything is stored in your memory to access easily if needed…or is it?

How do you make the most of your experience, whether it is a training program, an association meeting, or a conference?  It is an investment – you invest your time, resources or money.

Here are some tips to make the most of your investment:

  1. Clarify your intent prior to the workshop. What is your motivation for being there? As the date for the meeting approaches, think about why you are attending in the first place.
    • Even if your company requires your attendance – ask yourself “How will this benefit me?” You are investing your time in this conference. What will you get in return for your investment? Ask your boss and colleagues why they think this is important for you, and ask what suggestions they have for you. Create a strategy to ensure that you will benefit from your investment.
    • Whether you are attending a free workshop or paying to attend, assess your motivation.  Visualize the meeting – how will you remember or implement what you have learned? How will you take notes? Will there be handouts or should you bring a small notebook or a computer? I personally prefer a small notebook that I can place inside my pocketbook. For longer meetings, I usually bring my computer and take notes directly on my laptop.
    • Are you interested in networking at the event? If so, how will you do it? I’ve attended conferences where I barely knew anyone. While I have no problem introducing myself to a handful of people, I tend to stay in a corner, and have a difficult time interrupting conversations in progress or “circling the room”. Some of you may be very comfortable introducing yourself to as many people as you can. Whatever you are comfortable with, be yourself and remember your intent. What did you want to get out of the event? Be specific; Did you want to meet 1, 5 or 15 people? Or did you want to cultivate a deeper relationship with 1 or 2 people who you would like to follow-up with?
  2. Arrive early and find a spot to sit where you are comfortable. Bring an extra sweater or jacket if you anticipate the room will be cold or warm. It can be very uncomfortable to sit in a room feeling flushed or freezing.
    • It’s ok to take notes as needed. Some prefer to use highlighters. Request handouts, and highlight what it important to you.
    • If something “Clicks” take note of it. Being naturally action oriented, I place the words “DO” before an idea and that will go into my priority to-do list.
    • Most workshops naturally enable you to connect and discuss in small groups. Ensure that you invest in building a relationship with those in your group. You may find some things in common with them, and they can be very insightful or generous in answering your questions.
    • During breaks – In conferences where I do not know anyone, breaks can be uncomfortable. It sometimes seems like everyone is chatting animatedly around me, except me. I’m a slight extrovert, but prefer to be an introvert when I do not know anyone. At my last association meeting, I quietly took my lunch and sat at my table by myself, hoping that someone would sit next to me. Two people did and they quickly engaged in their own private conversation. It’s a good thing I had my iPhone (always handy.) I read emails and Facebook until a friendly person sat next to me. I noticed some people had no problem sitting with groups that were already in the midst of a discussion. Good for them.
    • Business Cards – Take the initiative to give out your business card to other attendees; some attendees have them and will happily give you one. On the back of their card, write down where you met this new contact (i.e. seat mate; coffee; lunch break; group discussion, on the way out, parking lot, etc.) This will help you remember them when you connect later. Some attendees do not have a card. This is where your notebook comes in handy – ask them to write their contact info.
    • Participate – Whether in your smaller group or in the larger group, test your understanding or feel free to ask a question. Your “aha” moments “click” better when you share or test them out with others.
    • Before you leave the meeting – remember your intent. Is your intent to find a mentor? Is it to learn something in particular that you would like to apply? Is it to create a support group? Is it to find a mentee to give back to? Or is it all of the above? Make sure you connect with your prospects and discuss potential next steps before you leave the conference. My intention at Saturday’s meeting was to join or create a mastermind group with speakers of like interest. I laid my intention out to the two women seated next to me and they were both interested.
  3. As soon as you get home or back to your hotel room. This is where the true test of your intent comes through; this is where “Click to Stick” happens. Here’s what works for me:
    • As soon as I get home, I go straight to my laptop/office, have a glass of wine or cup of tea, turn on some music-and while the information is fresh, connect with my new-found colleagues. Facebook or Linked in has made it easy to connect. This only takes 10 minutes max.
    • If you have more time, send a nice note to a handful of new contacts conveying how much you enjoyed meeting them. I might  cite a topic that I enjoyed discussing, or how I found their questions insightful, or whatever will help me and them keep the network going. Whatever you do, be sincere. If you said you were going to follow-up, please keep your word.
    • Since I had the intent of creating a mastermind group, I quickly sent a brief email to my two new colleagues providing times I am available to connect and setting up our first meeting. They responded and we connected.
    • If the speaker was great,  tell them and connect with them. Send a thank-you note or connect via Facebook or Linked In. Better, let the event planner know how much you enjoyed the speaker.
    • Write your to-do list and start prioritizing the three items that you are going to do as a result of the meeting. The speaker at our last meeting, NSA (National Speakers Association) President, Ruby Newell-Ledger is awesome! She is sincere, and so generous and motivating that I was moved to blog about the meeting, write what I learned and create my to do list. I know that following up on her presentation will make a difference in my business.
    • One colleague books an extra day at the hotel to write out her learnings and insights before she goes home. It works for her.
    • At a conference I am attending in July, a mastermind group is already forming and planning to meet after the conference to summarize and crystallize the learnings. What a great idea!

Your attendance is an investment and your time to debrief the meeting is part of this investment. Your personal debrief could potentially be the most valuable time you will invest in the workshop or conference.

Feel free to comment and share what works for you. How have you maximized your attendance to a conference or workshop? How do you transition from Click to Stick?

Liza Sichon is an Executive Coach, Speaker and Consultant in Silicon Valley.  She can be reached at liza@executivehrcoach.com

 

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