It is common to walk out of a conference feeling completely re-energised and inspired – your mind buzzing with new ideas and connections. You have attended presentations, engaged in discussions, networked and made new contacts, caught up with old colleagues. Perhaps you’ve even presented a talk yourself.
You may also be feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the influx of new information – your brain working overtime as you start thinking about how to incorporate new ideas, changes and improvements into your own workplace.
If you find yourself experiencing a sense of “information overload” post-conference, here are a few tips to help you manage and filter the flood of new ideas.
- The post-conference “Brain Dump”:
Conferences can be hectic. No matter how vigilant you are at note-taking, the ideas come at you thick and fast, and it is impossible to keep up with all the information being presented.
If your conference runs over a couple of days and you are staying where the conference is being held, such as in a conference venue in Victoria or on a lovely vineyard for example, the best thing you can do is take some time out directly after the conference each day and write down as many extra notes and thoughts as you can. By brain-dumping at the end of each day, perhaps before a group dinner or scheduled evening activity, you will remember more than if you leave it until weeks after the event.
If you aren’t staying overnight at the conference venue, make sure a day or two after the event you set aside an hour or so to sit down and unload all your post-conference thoughts and reflections onto paper. Who were the speakers? What resonated with you the most? Was there anything you disagreed with? Were there any ideas presented that you would like to take on board? Flesh out any notes you did take and revisit the ideas that stood out to you on the day – this will give you an ongoing reference to go back to when you want to start putting them to use.
Many conferences will also offer the presentation decks for download during or after the conference. Revisiting these will jog your memory and help you to reflect on the information presented.
- Put ideas into practice:
After you have completed the post-conference “brain dump”, create a list of ideas that you would like to put into action – these could be changes, improvements or alternatives to the way you are currently doing things that you can envision incorporating into your own workplace. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Did you come across any ideas at the conference that might help you to do your job better or faster?
- Did the conference make you realise that you have a skill, talent, process, or technology gap in your field of work?
It can be helpful to categorise your ideas into short-term and medium/long-term goals. Short-term goals could include any changes or improvements that could be made right away, without the need for a project plan. Medium/long term goals could include projects that require a more involved consultation and planning process, such as large-scale cultural shifts and policy changes.
- Share your thoughts and ideas with work colleagues:
Present a conference summary to your staff/co-workers who were unable to attend. This will help you to organise your thoughts and further clarify the most important things you took away from the conference. Print out the conference schedule, download some of the best slides, pull up online presentations from speakers, share your notes, and invite feedback regarding your ideas for any short and long-term goals.
- Follow up on new connections:
Chances are you made a host of new contacts at the conference, and now have a stockpile of business cards to prove it. A few days after the event, gather up all the business cards you have collected and follow up on every new connection.
The most obvious place to connect is on LinkedIn, where most professionals have come to expect connection requests post-conference. Remember to write a personalised salutation so they are able to connect the dots on how you met.
Also be sure to follow the people you met at the conference on Twitter to maintain the offline connection you made. See if they have written any post-conference blogs and offer your feedback and reflections as a way of processing your ideas and continuing the conversation.
Follow up and keep the conversation going:
A week or two after the event, get in contact again and ask if they have managed to implement any of the lessons from the conference. Maintaining contact in this way helps to keep the conversation going, and could even lead to interesting opportunities and partnerships down the track.
- Continue the discussion on social media:
Conferences usually have a dedicated hashtag that attendees are encouraged to use when they tweet or share insights and learnings throughout the conference. These conversations often continue well after the conference is over. Searching the conference hashtag after the event is a great way to follow the thread of discussion and keep the ideas flowing. It can also help you to identify other conference attendees who are creating useful online content/blogs in your area of interest.
You might also like to write a post-conference blog yourself.
Sharing your thoughts and ideas from the conference in a blog post is a great way of further organising your thoughts and reflecting upon your experience.
- Send feedback to the conference organisers:
Write a review of the conference and send it to the organiser. Everyone has an opinion about how a particular conference was run. What did you find valuable? What could have been improved? Is there a topic you would have liked to hear more/less about? This will not only give the organisers valuable feedback, it will help you to organise and apply your post-conference thoughts, reflections and ideas in a productive way.