If you’ve attended a few Project Management Conferences you must know that it’s always a great idea to have a game plan to maximize your investment in attending.
We all assume what the possible outcomes would be; whether it is making a mental note of who you would like to meet or a goal for the number of business cards you would like to give out. But a mental note is no match to planning on paper.
Since we’re talking about a typical investment of 3-days and $2,500 USD, this is planning well-spent. Here’s a checklist, as presented on a recent PM Podcast by Cornelius Fichtner.
There are 3 stages to get the most out of any Project Management Conference you choose to attend.
The planning stages are divided into Before, During and After.
Before The Conference:
Define Your Goals – Describe what you are hoping to learn and be realistic. It’s good to have 1 to 3 goals you want to achieve by attending. For example, bring new ideas back to your business or guests you can invite in the future that will add value.
Define Metrics – How will you measure your successes? You should figure out what you will use to determine if it was successful. For example, the number of people or vendors you would want to meet.
Plan With An Open Mind – Remind yourself to be open-minded to new experiences and ways of doing things. Be willing to listen and challenge yourself.
Plan For Success – Have out of office email messages and reduce the amount of times you check your phone during the conference hours if possible.
Plan Attendance – Determine which presentations you are going to attend before hand. Review the agenda and select the ones that best fit what you are interested in. A great way to get the most out of this is to write down one question that you would like to ask the speaker.
Its all about networking. If you’re unable to make it, download the presentation papers and read up on it. You might end up seeing the speaker around and knowing the presentation would a be great conversation starter.
Plan To Network – This is number one. So how do you network at these things? Review the list of activities and book some time or schedule dinners with other attendees or exhibitors and introduce yourself. If you’re an introvert, prepare ice breaker questions like “Why are you attending?”.
It’s also great to prepare a 10 second elevator pitch so you will be ready and not frazzled when you’re asked about yourself. Make sure to bring enough business cards to hand out. If you want to stand out, bring thank you cards you can send to people you’ve connected with.
Plan To Meet Vendors – Review the list of vendors and mark those you would want to have a discussion with. Plan which ones you are going to see and write your down your questions.
Know the PDU submission process – Do some research and jot down which presentations will earn you PDUs and how the submission process works. Self submit or by organizer.
During The Conference:
Be in the Here and Now – Minimize distractions. Be in the moment and give your attention to the conference. Set your phone on silent and try not to check your phone between presentations – instead start conversations with those around.
Attending Presentations – Introduce yourself to the speaker before the presentation if possible to by-pass the line after the talk. Make sure to connect with the speaker if possible.
Taking Notes During Presentations – Only write action items, nuggets of ideas or skills. You don’t need the whole presentation word for word or your own thoughts will get lost.
Networking Between Presentations – This is a great time to strike up a conversation with others, learn what they took away from the presentation and meet new people.
Don’t Eat Alone – This is also another excellent time to get you’re networking on. Find others who are eating alone and introduce yourself, you never know what might come of it – could be a future partnership or a good friend.
Team Attendance – Divide and conquer the attendance. Have each individual go to different presentations and then schedule a one or two 15 minute debrief to recap what they got from the presentation and how It could improve your own project.
Social Media – A great way to get noticed is to share your experience online. Use hash tags (#) on twitter to connect to related communities, or post nuggets of wisdom, quotes on your social mediums.
Elevator Speech – When meeting someone new use your prepared elevator speech. Focus on how you can help them, how you can add value to their business. Be respectful, show genuine interest, and don’t only focus on what you do.
After The Conference:
Review Your Metrics – Did you achieve your goals? Check if you’ve met all of your goals or if you could have achieved more. This is where you determine what was missing and what you can do next time.
Nurture Your New Relationships – Send everyone a quick note via email or LinkedIn and make sure to fullfill the promises that you made to follow-up.
Turn Your Ideas Into Action – This is where your investment really pays off. What did you take away from this experience? Put it all together and convert your ideas into reality. [Act. Schedule. Assign. Review. Implement.]
Team Debriefing – If you attended the conference with a team, schedule a 2-hour meeting that would occur within 2 business days after the conference. Set this up before the conference so everyone is on the same page.
After the debriefing when you’ve learned what everyone took away from the conference, schedule an action meeting that is meant to find ideas that can be used and implemented. The action meeting should be scheduled within 2-4 weeks of the debrief. Then, once the action meeting is completed, schedule another meeting 4 weeks after that to wrap up everything from the conference.
Claim Your PDUs – Make sure that your PDUs have been assigned to you. Check online if the organizer applied your PDUs or if you have to do it yourself. This is important.
Trash Notes – Finally, once you’ve pulled everything you could from your conference notes, throw them away. If you didn’t take action on what was noted sometime after, you may never do so. It’s best to cross out what you did take action on and simple toss the rest.
Like these tips? Check out more of Cornelius Fichtner’s Podcast here.
How do you determine if you’ve achieved your goals and maximized your investment? Leave a comment below with some tips to help out your fellow professionals.