This post originally appeared in LinkedIN by Kate Hayes of Echoing Green.
Going to conferences is a necessity for many young professionals who are seeking career advancement, looking to build their network, or hoping to get inspired and gain new insights about their industry. At the same time, conferences can feel overwhelming (there are too many people!), frustrating (this content is so boring!), and many leave feeling unsure about how to bring what they’ve learned back to work (my boss expects a report-out, so I better get on that!). In order to maximize the conference experience, it is important to have a clear process for what happens when you get back to the office. By scheduling two hours after you return, you can significantly maximize the time you have spent and ensure that what you’ve gained will have a meaningful impact on your career. What follows is exactly what those two hours should look like.
Journaling (30 minutes): Within a few days after you return form a conference, it is important to capture your learnings—not just from your notes, but from what you actually remember from the conference. So take out your notebook and pen, set a timer, and get to writing. Don’t worry about whether you capture everything or whether it makes sense. This process is about capturing your feelings, thoughts, and high-level reflections from the conference as a whole. Writing (not on a computer) is a greatly undervalued process, and is important in really thinking about what you learned at the conference.
Social Media Interactions (20 minutes): During the conference, you probably followed along with the conference hashtag throughout every session, and then completely forgot about it later on. Go back and read through conference tweets and engage with attendees. Perhaps you’ll find someone interesting to follow or reach out to, or you’ll gain interesting insights from other sessions that you hadn’t noticed live. Follow interesting speakers and tweet out your thanks for their great sessions—they’ll appreciate it!
Personal Follow-Up (40 minutes): As you consider how best to follow-up with those you met at a conference, start with creating a few options for each person you met:
· A personalized LinkedIn request: If you met someone that you found interesting and would like to stay connected with, consider sending them a LinkedIn request. However, you must remember to write a note along with that request. Chances are, they are receiving requests from many people, and might not remember who you are (and if you can’t think of anything to say because you can’t really remember the interaction—don’t add them).
· A meaningful email: If you really connected with someone and could see yourself continuing the conversation in the near future, send them an email. Share at least 1-2 resources that you think they might like (articles, video links, website), and a plan for when you’d like to connect—whether you’d like to connect again immediately (if so, share some potential dates/times), or letting them know that you’ll reach out to schedule a call or coffee in a month (put it in your calendar so you don’t forget!).
· Toss the business card: The honest truth is that we all meet a lot of people at conferences that we won’t ever connect with again. That is normal, and it’s okay to toss that person’s business card without any additional follow-up. Chances are if you do reach out, nothing would ever come of it, so don’t waste your time or theirs, and just toss the card.
What’s learned here, leaves here (30 minutes): Once you’ve done the first three steps, it’s going to become incredibly easy to share your conference experience with your boss, your peers, your direct reports, and anyone else you’d like to. Now it’s time to grab your computer and start typing. Be sure to share the following:
· High-Level Takeaways: What did you learn overall? What sessions sparked new thinking or confirmed ideas that your organization has been wrestling with?
· Meaningful Connections: Who did you connect with and how are you following up?
· Future: Is this a conference that your organization should continue to have a presence at in the future? If so or if not, why? Who should attend this conference in the future?
And with that, you’ve done an amazing job of following up after the conference!
To take your follow-up to the next level add on from Conveners.org:
Either take notes on a business card or in a journal when you are talking with someone – this way you can be sure to remember that great article you were going to send or make the introduction you promised.
You can set 10-15 minutes aside every evening of the event to do the follow up from that day, connecting to people you met on LinkedIN and sending your follow up emails. If you use gmail, boomerang, or other email plug-ins you can set an automatic reminder for the email to come to the top of your inbox in 2 weeks if there is no response, making it super easy to do the followup reminder. To be even faster at setting up a call online calendar systems like Calend.ly take the pressure off the back and forth scheduling emails.