Get the most from your next conference

Practice Management

Get the most from your next conference

Enjoy the event and implement more ideas after by preparing before you go.

Have you ever attended a conference where you took great notes, gathered valuable materials, and left for home with every intention of implementing these ideas upon your return to the office? Of course you have. Unfortunately, as you return to your desk you are accosted by the demands of the real world and that conference tote-bag filled with potential greatness is shoved to the back-burner. Thoughtful planning for before, during and after the event can help you get the most out of your conference experience.

Before the conference

  1. Review the agenda
    • Look at the session descriptions and decide what you want to accomplish.
    • List your goals for morning and afternoon sessions and check them off when completed.
    • If you’re part of a team that’s going, create assignments based on end results that you want to achieve and divide them up.
  2. Schedule the follow-through
    • Plan a post-conference research and action-plan creation meeting to be held immediately upon your return – do this work while the ideas are still fresh and motivation is high.

During the conference

  1. Plan for rest
    • Request a quiet room away from hotel hustle and bustle.
    • Pull the drapes closed to help keep out noise and light.
    • Make sure the door is dead-bolted and/or the door guard swing-bar is flipped to the locked position – you’ll sleep better knowing no one will open your door in the middle of the night.
  2. Knowledge needs nutrition
    • Get up in time to eat breakfast.
    • Have a snack mid-morning or afternoon.
    • Stay well hydrated.
    • Minimize caffeine – overdoing coffee, tea and energy drinks can overstimulate the nervous system and put you “on edge.”
    • Eat lunch – protein seems to help concentration so tuna, chicken, turkey, lean beef or ham and eggs make ideal choices.
  3. Note taking

    Here are some ideas that can help colleagues and staff interpret what you have written:

    • If you record your notes on a copy of a presenter’s PowerPoint presentation, bring a highlighter or use a note-taking structure that will enable you to easily identify potential action items at the end of the day.
    • If you are a heavy note taker, use a spiral notebook and write ideas and details on the right page and potential action steps on the left page.
    • Use an app on your mobile device. A few to look into are Notability and Evernote. You can email notes immediately to your team back at the office with pictures of handouts.
  4. Movement stimulates energy

    According to the Human Performance Institute, long periods of minimal or no movement tend to lead to low energy levels and decreased performance. Researchers recommend:

    • Every 30 to 45 minutes, perform small movements (stretch, stand up).
    • Every 90 to 120 minutes, perform major movements (walk, climb stairs).
  5. Power nap

    By 2 p.m. it’s likely you have been processing information for six hours. You are better off taking a 20-minute power nap than staring like a zombie.

    • A nap should be 15 to 30 minutes – any longer and you’ll lapse into deep sleep and be groggy, so set an alarm.
    • Turn off the lights, noise and lie down.
    • Avoid late-afternoon napping as this may disrupt your normal sleep pattern – avoid naps if you have nocturnal insomnia.
  6. Daily recap

    At the end of each day, sit down and review the proposed ideas/actions you wrote during the sessions:

    • Look at each item and ask:
      • Is this a good fit for my practice?
      • Will this really benefit me?
      • Am I ready for this or is this something that’s still way down the road?
      • If the answer is “no” to any question, cross that item off the list.
    • Take the remaining items and write each one on a small Post-it note:
      • Start arranging them in the back of your notebook by grouping them into categories (marketing, portfolio management, etc.).
      • Look for missing pieces – Review your ideas and determine if there are any prerequisites necessary to accomplish them.
      • Prioritize your categories – decide which projects you will start first and label the categories accordingly.
      • Prioritize your action items – Within each category move the Post-its into the order in which you will accomplish them.
      • Continue building this collection of Post-it ideas at the end of each conference day.
  7. End of the Day

    Relax and enjoy a nice dinner:

    • Eat proteins at dinner (fish, poultry, etc.) but avoid a large or heavy meal within four or five hours of bedtime.
    • If you’re hungry at bedtime, try a light snack that is high in carbohydrates with a high glycemic index (rice, potatoes, bread and processed breakfast cereals) and low in protein.
    • Avoid caffeine and chocolate within six hours of bedtime and alcohol within three hours.

After the Conference

What you do next will determine the return on your investment of time and resources.

  1. Post-conference review

    Use your notebook filled with details and Post-it notes. If you haven’t done the Post-it step yet, refer to the daily recap section above.

  2. Post-conference research and plan creation

    At this point you are working within your prescheduled conference follow-up day. To help with the plan:

    • Define your SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timed) goals – Review the Post-its in your notebook and find your highest ranked categories and pick three to five action items to start with.
    • Prepare a meeting agenda for the conference debrief with staff.
    • Delegate action items with details and due dates.
    • Make sure everyone understands the desired result so their “to do” lists are more than just random action items.
    • Schedule follow-up meetings – Share progress reports and respond to obstacles encountered by staff.
    • When the team has completed the first group of action items, go back to your notebook and create the plan to implement the second group of ideas.

Dr. Jim Maas for ideas from his book, “Power Sleep”The Human Performance Institute, Ironman and Janus Labs for nutrition and exercise ideas from the guidebook, “Ironman Advisor”

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