I’m flying back from my second conference in the last few weeks and I’ve been reflecting on how I try to make the most out of the experience. It was helpful for me to think through the following tips.
Embrace the Hashtag
Many conferences publicize a specific Twitter hashtag so that as attendees tweet, they can be identified and tracked. This is very helpful to both publicize a session that you might offer as well as to find out about other interesting sessions. I also pay attention to tweets during sessions to see if there is an interesting presentation that I might be able to pop into if nothing piqued my interest in the program. I came upon one of the most interesting sessions at my most recent conference in this way. I never would have picked it out otherwise.
Tweet your Notes
I tend to tweet during sessions to share interesting ideas or quotes using the conference hashtag. I like the idea of promoting others’ work and it keeps all my notes together in my Twitter timeline for easy reference. If the presenter shares her Twitter name or if I can find it online, I always mention them as well. This not only helps to spread ideas that may be of interest to folks who follow me, it’s also a way that I can keep track of things that interested me so I can go back to them later.
Taking notes in this way helps me to connect with the presenters and other attendees. As I see folks tweeting about similar ideas that I’m interested in, I often view their profiles and end up following them. These are often some of the people I end up resonating with and learning from after the conference. It’s also a great way to make connections and arrange to meet at the conference. This can be a really productive way to make a connection around a particular topic or idea. It’s been my experience that people appreciate it when you reach out to them in this way – particularly if you offer to buy them coffee.
Whether as a part of tweets that I share or in my note-taking app, Noteshelf, I often take pictures of slides with interesting content. Sometimes snapping a quick photo is more efficient and effective than trying to capture the idea in words. It’s particularly helpful when the presenter uses an interesting visual or diagram. Sometimes I’ll use my phone’s camera, but I’ve also been known to hold up my iPad Pro to snap a shot. While it may look a little ridiculous, it’s a great way to capture an idea.
Save the Paper
When I want to dig deeper into the content of the presentation, I’ll often look up the paper associated with the talk. Many conferences now have Web sites for the proceedings that are available to attendees. I find that if I don’t do this while the idea is fresh in my mind, I’ll often forget to do this after the conference. I usually save the document in Evernote to read on the flight home or when I get back to work. If the proceedings aren’t immediately available, I’ll create a task in Todoist to prompt me to do it once I’m back in the office.
This last one is the one I really need to work on. It’s easy to get fired up about ideas when you’re actually at the conference. Once you step off the plane back home, though, the reality of a full inbox, papers to grade, and meetings to attend to sets in quickly. It’s easy to not take the time to reflect on and synthesize what you’ve learned. I’m trying to be better with this by reviewing my notes (and tweets) on the way home and create action items in Todoist to encourage me to follow up. I also like to try to block the next morning on my schedule when I return to the office to really make the most of these notes.
What strategies do you use to make the most from your professional conferences?
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