6th October 2015
The AGM conference programme is packed with insightful presentations from some of the “best in the business” thought leaders and the hospitality programme is a “money can’t buy” experience. With nearly 140 delegates booked and confirmed I thought it would be useful in this newsletter, to discuss how UK & Ireland Member firms can get the most out of their global conference experience so here are a few insights:
1. Separate the insights from the actions.
Many conference delegates don’t even read their notes once they leave the event however, little observations and quotes that you particularly enjoyed are probably still scribbled amidst them.
To make the best use of the notes you take, keep a separate list of “Action Steps” that you come up with during the conference.
On Monday morning after the conference review the action steps and notes and transfer them to your to-do list. Some people I know use a different colour for the actionable stuff. Whatever your system, recognise that conferences are liable to overwhelm you with notations. You must enter and leave with a bias-towards-action to capture the gems for post-conference execution.
2. Distill every talk down to one key takeaway.
Every presenter at a conference has his or her own style. Some people tell a story, sometimes there is a video or set of images, and sometimes there is a full slide presentation. Given our short memories and the great amount of stimuli, it is important to distill each presentation down to a central point.
After each presentation, ask yourself what struck you, what did you learn? Perhaps there was a specific tip that you could adapt in your own work – or some piece of counterintuitive advice that really resonated. If you write anything down during a conference, make it the one key take-away from each presentation that is worth additional consideration upon your return to real life.
3. Maximise your time.
How should you spend your time at a conference? Should you cut off a great conversation with a fellow attendee to make the next session? Should you take a breakfast meeting with another member in lieu of attending the opening remarks? Don’t assume that you should follow the herd and do what you’re told.
The greatest benefits of a conference are circumstantial, often found in the seams of the experience. That chance conversation in the coffee line could make all the difference. A great conference is especially fertile ground for collaboration. As such, don’t feel pressured by the structure. Of course, as a conference organiser, our hope is that you enjoy the full agenda. However, you must ultimately make sure the conference serves your needs as best as it can.
4. Plan private gatherings with like-minded people.
Conferences are more than just the agenda, they are an assembly of like-minded people with great intention. How often do you get uninterrupted time to discuss matters of interest with industry peers from around the world?
Many frequent AGM-goers claim that their greatest conference experiences happened during the “downtime.”
Don’t leave these benefits up to chance. Reach out to your contacts beforehand and propose grabbing an early breakfast together, lunch, or drinks during the conference. Encourage each person to invite 1-2 people that they deeply respect, thus broadening the potential of the meeting.
5. Process business cards for follow-up.
Most conference conversations end with a business card exchange. And then, post-conference, you’re left with tons of cards and little time to sort through them. One tip I’ve heard is to collect business cards into two groups – the first for those that you absolutely plan to follow up with for a specific need, and the second for those that you just want to put in your address book but don’t have any next step.
For business cards that fall into the first group, write your intended action on the card. For example, “invite to meet up” or “introduce to John for demo.” If you have a digital way to store contacts at conferences, use tags within the entry to distinguish those that are actionable from the others.
I don’t believe that a conference should simply be a creative indulgence. Many of us have found our passions and are searching to make an impact in what matters most to us. A simple dose of stimulation isn’t worth the price of admission. In your search for better focus and performance, attend your next conference with high expectations and make the effort to reach them.