Meetings

You Just Got Back From a Conference. Now What?

By / Aug 21, 2015 (iStock/Thinkstock)

You may be exhausted after getting back from a conference, but you can’t lose momentum. Now’s the time to review your notes, follow-up with new contacts, share what you learned, and decide how your attendance may benefit your association.

We’ve all been there: You return home after being out of town for a few days attending a conference, and all you want to do is get back to your usual work and life routine—and, more importantly, take a nap.

Prioritizing your top-five most important lessons will help you reflect on the information you’ve just been bombarded with and make it easier for your colleagues to digest.

But you also don’t want to lose all the knowledge you gained or connections you made while you were there. In other words, what’s an attendee to do post-meeting?

Full disclosure: Part of the reason I decided to blog on this topic was I’m not the best at post-meeting follow-up. For example, I’m more than a week out from ASAE’s 2015 Annual Meeting & Expo, and a notebook filled with notes from sessions and some business cards clipped to it still sits on my desk. I did open it once before a brainstorming meeting for an upcoming issue of Associations Now, but otherwise, it has just sat there.

Thankfully, there are some others out there with some good ideas on how to conquer the post-conference knowledge and contact dump.

Over on the Concur blog, there are a good amount of ideas about how to share the information you learned with your colleagues who manned the fort in your absence. One way the post recommends doing it is to come up with a list of top-five takeaways within a week of your return. “[P]rioritizing your top five most important lessons will help you reflect on the information you’ve just been bombarded with and make it easier for your colleagues to digest.”

The post also suggests adding resources, like notes or links to slides, which will help refresh your memory and give your team more insight into the depth of sessions or speakers. “Most conferences post their session presentations, descriptions, or videos online—pick and choose the topics that affected you most, and share out the links.”

Michele Lawson wrote on the Huff Post Business Blog about four post-conference networking tips. What stood out to me in the post were her suggestions on how to reconnect with people you met onsite. “The first three weeks are a critical time to reach out and begin nurturing the relationships with other attendees and vendors. Acting early assures that details of conversations will be fresh on your mind and theirs,” she wrote. “Email or social media connections are the best way to make the first initial contact unless there was indication of a better method in which to reconnect.”

Finally, Rick Rutherford from Your Membership has a great post from 2014 on “how to avoid post-conference stress disorder.” He wrote that even though you may be full of ideas you want to share and changes you’d like to make, “bursting into your office the day after attending a conference and raving about all the changes your association needs to implement is a sure-fire morale killer—both for you and your teammates.”

Instead, he suggests you “take a seat, take a breath, and spend some ‘quality’ time and critically look at the ideas you are revved up about.” Then you can put those through the three R’s of implementation—relevant, realistic, refine—to determine which ones should be brought to the table at your next staff meeting.

Now that we heard from some others, I’ll throw two final ideas in. Perhaps an association can set up a group in its online member collaboration tool for attendees to share takeaways with one another. It could be useful to both members and the organization to see what resonated. Another would be for an association to hold a post-conference event (whether face-to-face or virtual) where attendees can get together and debrief on the knowledge they acquired. The Michigan Association of Insurance Agents did something along these lines when it held a follow-up webinar several weeks after its annual technology meeting [ASAE member login required].

Here’s hoping that writing this blog post shames me into stepping up my post-conference game. Now it’s your turn: What’s part of your post-meeting routine? Or what ideas do you have to make it better? Please share in the comments.

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now. More »

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