All good things must come to an end.
However, when you attend a trade show, conference, convention, seminar or other event the "mini-society" that is created amongst the attendees does not have to evaporate with the closing keynote presentation.
After the Master of Ceremonies delivers the gratitude to the event organizers and sponsors everyone rushes to their cars or to catch airplanes. Good-byes are said, hugs are given, business cards are exchanged, and the people go their separate ways. This mass exodus is not necessarily the the finale if you are focused on building upon the learning and cultivating the relationships.
To maximize your investment in attending the conference you have to take ownership of the necessary post-event actions. Do not simply place the learning materials on a shelf, file your notes away, and forgo following up with the people you met. Instead you should follow this five step plan:
1. Review the learning materials. Handouts, binders, slide decks and other physical or digital materials are useful only if you take the time to review them. You will only retain a small amount of the information your learned if you never take the time to browse over the data. Schedule time within ten days of returning to the office to refresh your memory on key points you learned. To take it one step further, set up a time to talk by phone with another attendee and discuss the best things you both learned at the conference.
2. Transcribe your notes. Regardless of if you took notes on a pad of paper or in your laptop, they are rough. Invest the time to re-write the information you took down. A good way to ensure you get the most from your notes is to write them to be shared with others who were not at the conference. I have a group of peers with whom we share notes from conferences the others did not attend. This allows those who missed the event to get nuggets of information, and forces the person who was there to clarify the ideas in an understandable manner.
3. Prioritize business cards. You will not have a "love connections" with everyone you meet. Too often people are overwhelmed with the stack of business cards they bring home from a conference, and thus they do nothing to follow up. Create three piles based on your level of desire to keep in touch. The first pile is those you know you need to follow up with quickly because there was a clear reason why you should re-connect. The second pile is those you might want to reach out to at some point. The last pile is those you see no reason to speak with again. Make the first pile a priority and follow up within one week. Get to the second group if you can. Do not worry about the last pile. Also, do not forget to send notes or emails to the event host, organizers, and sponsors telling them why you enjoyed the conference.
4. Decide if you will return to the conference the next year. Some events are "industry happenings" that you know you want to participate in every year. If your experience merits going back, get the information in your calendar immediately so you can reserve the dates. Also, schedule reminders to register and book travel so that you can get the best deals when the time comes.
5. Tell others about the event. When you attend a great event, do not keep it a secret. Reach out to others in your industry and let them know what made the show spectacular. If you write a blog or are active in social media sites be sure to give the kudos about the event. Event organizers and others in your business community will recognize and appreciate your helping spread the word. When you tell nobody about a successful conference you are being selfish, as people are always trying to evaluate where to invest their time and money. Share the good news. (If the event is awful you have a harder time, as you do not want a reputation of being a complainer. Maybe best just to be quiet unless asked).
Do not let the event end. Work forge ongoing relationships and put the information you learned into practice. You have the power to make the conferences you attend spring eternal.
Have A Great Day.
Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Catalyst". He works with meeting planners and conference organizers to set the tone for a meeting. His presentations educate, inspire and motivate attendees to engage deeper in the event and make meaningful connections. http://www.conferencecatalyst.com