Imagine this scenario—you’ve just come back from ASAE (or any other major industry conference). You’re armed with learnings, business cards and a number of rekindled relationships, and you’re ready to make a difference for your association. But then you step into the office, and it’s business as usual—hot items left and right, a slew of emails unanswered during your absence—and all those great ideas you’ve gathered gets buried on your desk.
Sound familiar? It happens to all of us.
Like you, we attend and participate in industry conferences to strengthen our clients and their associations in addition to our own organization. We have experienced the same challenge of translating conference sessions, networking events and keynote speeches into action and positive results.
We want to help you get started. That’s why we’ve developed an approach and downloadable guide to help turn your time at conferences like ASAE into actions to help strengthen your organization.
Before and During Conference
Prepping to create ROI from your conference investment starts long before you even arrive at the meeting. Start by writing down what you would like to bring back with you from the meeting (you can even do this while on the plane). While attending, pay attention to two different types of value you can capture:
- Knowledge sharing, through notes you take, sessions you attend and PowerPoints you bring back with you
- Networking, through the connections you make/rekindle for yourself and to pass on to your colleagues
It’s not always easy to “know what you don’t know,” but if you consider your possible takeaways as falling into these two buckets, you’ll start to understand how to more proactively shape your conference experience. And remember, this is an opportunity for both you personally and your association.
After the Conference and Before Returning to Work
There’s a chance that, when you leave the conference, you’ll know exactly what learning and connections you want to take back and share.
But if you come away with that “what just happened” feeling that’s so familiar to conference attendees, it’s important that you take the time to really organize your thinking, process your experience and distill it into something that’s actionable for your association.
To help, answer the following questions to guide your thoughts:
- What am I still thinking about?
- What sessions, ideas or connections would be fun to discuss with a colleague?
- Where did I have my “Aha!” moments?
While the questions may seem obvious enough, they’re a simple way to determine which bits of your experience you’re passionate enough about to pursue. And that’s very important given that, once you return to the office, it will take considerable effort and follow-through to translate that passion into action.
In the Office
So, you’re back at your desk, and the emails are flying. The daily grind of meetings, responsibilities and quick turnarounds are once again upon you and, even though you’re excited to put your new knowledge into action, finding the time and space to do so isn’t easy.
That’s okay. The fact of the matter is that it’s hard to change processes. We’ve come up with a few ways how you can be strategic in sharing knowledge and affecting change.
Start by sharing relevant presentations and content with your colleagues. Doing this can clear the way for broaching topics in meetings and earning support for your position long before you ever formally bring up the issue. Also, take the time to schedule formal knowledge-sharing sessions, walking your team or leadership through what you learned.
And those connections you made? Start connecting them to people in your association. Schedule sessions with your colleagues to talk through the value as soon as possible—after all, acting on these while they’re still fresh creates the highest of success.
To even further operationalize your findings, consider developing a personal action plan. We developed this tool to help you think through and organize your goals and the challenges, timing and resources associated with them. We wanted to make it easier for you to strengthen your association and get the most out of your conference investment. Filling out this worksheet is an easy first step in taking that energy and those ideas and turning them into actions.
It isn’t always easy to bring big ideas back from a great conference like ASAE. While we all have the best intentions and make these conference investments in good faith, it takes more than that to create lasting impacts. It takes perseverance, yes, but more than anything, it takes an intentional approach. Only in thinking through everything you’ve learned, curating it for your coworkers and developing a solid action plan can you truly ensure a meaningful ROI from your experience.
To help you streamline your thinking and create an actionable strategy, download our action plan template below.
Download your Personal Action Plan Worksheet.