After a quiet year, we are eager to welcome the return of live industry conferences. No more dressing up for Zoom webinars or pre-recorded speaker videos—we get the real deal! Pack your bags, grab your business cards, and get excited. Will you make the most of it?
We attend conferences because we seek professional growth, both in terms of education and networking. However, we tend to think of it as a chance to learn all the things while onsite. But, the real payoff happens when we get back to the office and unpack all of our new knowledge and connections in our “real world” setting.
Conferences aren’t cheap. In addition to registration fees, travel expenses, and accommodations, you must also consider the time spent away from your office, as it’s quite the investment of your time and money. To ensure your experience leads to big returns, you must implement and activate what you learn onsite.
Holding yourself accountable is easier said than done, particularly if you’re returning to an inbox bursting at the seams and a long list of catch-up to-dos. Creating a system to guarantee follow-through and validation ensures that your investment in conference education and networking pays off long after you return to your desk!
Here’s your first tip: your post-conference accountability strategy starts long before you show up for Day 1 of the event. Making the most of your conference experience is all about creating a path for activation. Here’s how to set yourself up for success with an action plan that gets you from pre- to post-conference.
Identify your greatest business needs
Before heading to the conference, set aside some time to consider what you hope to gain from the experience.
- What would help your business the most?
- Where can you use the most help?
- How will your attendance support your professional growth?
- Who are the movers and shakers that you know will change the game if you meet them?
- Is there specific knowledge you’re seeking?
Now, turn those answers into attainable goals for your time onsite. They will guide you through the conference to ensure that you are making the most of your time away from the office.
Review your goals while onsite
Throughout the conference, make sure your goals remain top-of-mind. I recommend taking a moment at the start of each day to review them. Let your goals guide you in your decisions; from the sessions you choose to sit in on, to the networking events you choose to attend. Then, head over to the conference and make it happen.
As you go about your day, be intentional about tying your takeaways into your goals. Don’t just take notes; link them to action lists and highlight your goals in the margins. Don’t just head to the tradeshow to pick up samples and business cards; stop by the tables to meet with people and start a conversation! Attending a conference is no time for passive engagement—you must be direct and goal-oriented to maximize your experience.
Determine your motivation triggers
Everybody finds motivation in their own way; you need to determine how you will stay on track to reach your goals. Are you a self-motivated person? If so, it may be as simple as adding dates to your calendar to take action on strategy ideation and reconnect with conference contacts.
On the other hand, if you rely on others for external motivation, consider reaching out to colleagues that attended the conference and set up a time to meet (in-person or virtually) several weeks later to work on the lessons learned together. This will help hold one another accountable. If you have a business coach, share your biggest takeaways with them and discuss how you can activate the lessons you’ve learned that will grow your business.
Find an accountability partner
In the events and hospitality industry, we are in the business of taking care of our clients. Unfortunately, we often prioritize their immediate needs and desires over the needs of our business. Having a reliable accountability partner, whether it’s a business coach or an industry buddy, can be a powerful way to stay on track.
Not only does an accountability partner serve as a cheerleader for our big goals, but they also act as a “check-in” to help you maintain focus. Having someone occasionally check in and say, “How’s it going with that project you’re working on?” can be incredibly motivating. It’s far easier to tell ourselves we’ll “get to it later” than to say it to someone else!
Set priorities when you get home
After the conference, you’re going to get home to a million things calling for your attention. There are the action-packed notes you took at the conference and mulled over on the flight home. There are the people that you want to connect with on social media. And, of course, there is the list of tasks that you need to catch-up on from your absence.
Don’t let your conference experience fade away in favor of what’s on fire. Identify no more than three action items you want to focus on. Enlist your accountability team—whether it’s a colleague at home, a business coach, or a new connection you met onsite—and share what you want to activate on the tail of the conference.
With the industry booming with business right now, you might feel that you’re too busy to focus on post-conference strategies when you get back. But, here’s the thing: If you don’t have time to follow up on your takeaways, you don’t have time to go to a conference. It’s as simple as that. Don’t invest the time and money in a conference experience if you don’t intend to do anything with it afterwards!