After attending any type of learning event, or even a key meeting within your workplace, the learning and growth doesn’t have to stop when the session ends. In fact, what you do after a conference, or even following a short Lunch and Learn or virtual training, can determine how much benefit you ultimately gain from the experience. Consider these steps when you log off or head to the airport.
- Follow up on things you committed to do. If you agreed to send a resource to someone you met, or even to simply keep in touch, do it within a few days while the connection is still warm. If you wait much longer, the person may struggle to remember your conversations as clearly, or feel frustrated if they are waiting for a piece of information or an introduction you promised. Recognize, however, that you may need to contact those you’ve networked with more than once before you receive an answer. Like you, they may be digging out from life and work demands, especially on returning from offsite events requiring travel.
- Gather your thoughts. Go through all those notes you took as soon as possible while you still recall the details behind them. Reviewing key points that you captured during a meeting or conference not only helps you remember them; it helps you identify connections between ideas and to link new ideas to existing knowledge. Research shows that connecting new information to existing understanding helps you retain new knowledge and actually apply it.
- Report on the return on investment. Your organization made a significant investment in your career by funding your participation in a major conference or professional meeting. Like other investments your company makes, it’s important to conduct a cost-benefit analysis. Prepare a brief report to your boss that explains key benefits you received from the opportunity and specific ideas for how you plan to implement new strategies.
- Try out new skills. Conference presenters can be incredibly engaging and their content captivating, but rarely do they provide opportunities to apply new knowledge or practice new skills during the event. You need to create those openings for yourself. Doing it as soon as possible will help you see how you might bring new skills to life while increasing the odds that you can still realistically reach out to fellow participants, and perhaps even presenters, with follow-up questions while the meeting and relationships are fresh in everyone’s minds.
- Share what you’ve learned. One of the best ways to maximize your mastery of new material is by sharing your learnings with those who were not able to attend. Organize a Lunch and Learn or a block of time before a team meeting to share highlights, or schedule small group gatherings to expose key participants to information that relates to their responsibilities.
- Access additional content. Some speakers provide PDFs and additional resources you can access by texting them or registering on their websites after an event. If you attended the amazing 2022 WFF Limitless Inspiration Leadership Conference, you will even have on-demand access to all of the content experienced during the event, plus all of the sessions for one leadership level up from yours. That is a huge value you don’t want to leave untapped.
- Plan for what’s next. If you want to access more of the host organization’s events in the future, start budgeting time and funds to make that possible. Or, if you didn’t find what you were looking for, explore other resources and talk to valued mentors and colleagues for advice on options better suited to your needs. Consider recommending the learning opportunity to team members or colleagues for whom it might be a good fit. You can plan now to save the date for the 2023 WFF Leadership Conference March 12-14 in Dallas.
Whether you participate virtually or travel to an in-person learning event, what you do in the days and weeks immediately following a class, key meeting or conference can make the difference between it being a nice one-off and something that truly expands your capabilities and grows your career. By demonstrating the benefits gained you can also position yourself for additional investment in the future.