Seminars and other training can be a great way to fill in gaps in your knowledge, learn about new trends and developments in your industry and get great ideas to grow your business. But they are not magical. In order to benefit from attending a seminar, you need to have a plan and follow your plan.
Here are some of the ways you can make the most of attending your next seminar or industry conference.
Be prepared. Many conferences offer concurrent sessions. Plan ahead to know which sessions will be most valuable to you. You may decide to change your plan once you get there, but have a plan so you do not miss anything important.
Plan to connect. Find out who else will be attending. Is there someone you know only online or someone you have admired for a long time? Contact them and see if you can make plans to have a meal or a cup of coffee together. Meeting face to face adds a new depth to your relationship.
Take lots of notes. You may think you will remember everything, but you won’t. That is especially true when information overload sets in. Take notes of important points and actions you will take as a result.
Ask questions. Do not be afraid to ask about points that were not clear to you, or to take a point further. Chances are that others are wondering the same thing and will be glad you asked.
Use meal and break times effectively. Take the opportunity to talk with other attendees. Do not spend all of your time with the same group of people. Mingle! You never know who you will meet or what will come of it. Sometimes you get the greatest benefit from the time you spent in the hallway (or the bar), not in a meeting room.
Make notes on business cards. You may come away with a huge stack of business cards from other attendees, but have no recollection of how you met or what you discussed. Make a short note on the back of the card as soon as possible after meeting each person. Remind yourself of any follow-up you plan to make.
Connect with the speakers. Speakers are usually at the front of the room because they are seen as experts and leaders in their industries—just the kind of people you want to know. When a speaker has done a great job, let him know. Introduce yourself, tell him what you got out of his session and pay him a sincere compliment. If you have a reason to contact him after the conference, you can remind him of your meeting so he will know who you are. (Hint: Want a reason to contact a speaker? Take some pictures of the speaker during his presentation and email them to him.)
You can learn a lot at a seminar, but your new knowledge is only good if you put it to use. When you return from the event, go through your notes and start putting what you learned into action.