Spring has sprung and you know that that means — it’s conference season. More conferences happen during spring than any other time of the year. From my vantage, conferences are the absolute best and fastest way to develop as or into a learning leader. There is no place else where you can meet the “who’s who” in the industry, gain focused knowledge and have some fun too.
I am planning to attend two, including the CLO Symposium in Miami from April 12-15. I don’t know about you, but I find that attending conferences can be an exhausting, data-overload. Having attended conferences for more than 30 years, I have come up with my own checklist for maximizing the experience.
1. Planning is essential. Chief Learning Officer provides a great planning tool for participants. There are competing choices at the symposium — sessions to attends, conference buddies to spend time with, networking and the beautiful and warm Miami sunshine for those who are still thawing out from the winter months. Use the tool to plan out your day, print the schedule and take it with you. Add to the plan:
- Time when you will spend time connecting with your conference buddies (the friends you only get to see when you attend conferences)
- Time for keeping up with work — emails, returning phone calls etc.
You will get so much more done because you won’t need to spend any time making decisions about where to go or what to do next. When I attend a conference and do not plan my time well, I end up spending most of it doing phone meetings and missing key opportunities. In my CLO blog post, Add Sleep to Your Development Plan, I wrote about Greg McKeown’s article “If You Don’t Prioritize Your Life, Someone Else Will” — that message is an extremely important one when attending conference.
2. How you start predicts how you will finish. I wrote a post on LinkedIn back in December with the title, “4 Tips to Gain Energy, Not Weight, This Holiday Season.” This tip holds true for us conference attendees. In the post I wrote, “I’m not a sports fanatic, but I do like statistics, especially when they work in my favor (smile). In 48 Super Bowls (American football championship games), the team scoring first wins 70 percent of the time. It’s one of the clearest signs of who wins imaginable.”
It’s the same with attending a conference. The first day is the most important. On day one of the CLO Symposium, I plan to eat healthy, exercise (probably take a short walk), and rest. If you do the same, then your chances of taking care of yourself on day two go up by double and by day three, you will truly have maximized your experience.
3. Pick and choose your information. If you’re like me, you don’t want to miss anything. In fact, early in my conference attending years, I would run around ensuring I attended every possible session I could across a multitude of topics. I would leave the conference exhausted and in such data overload that a few days later, none of it would be of value to me. Ease up, do less and feel good about what you’ve accomplished. Choose one or two specific areas to concentrate on and then hone in to gather as much information as you can. If you take notes or collect handouts, take time at the conference to identify the key learning nuggets you will use and those you want to share with others.
4. One truly is the loneliest number. Why experience attending a conference alone when you can do it with someone else? If you know someone else who is attending, get in touch and schedule time to connect. If you don’t know anyone, then start networking online with others prior to coming. When you know at least one other person, you have a far more pleasurable and productive experience. That pleasure converts to positive endorphins that will carry you throughout the event.
If you are attending the CLO Symposium in Miami, please come up and say hello. I am an introvert, so I appreciate it when others initiate the conversation. We can share ideas from the session and I would love to hear how you are developing yourself as a CLO.