Last week I attended a conference in Austin, Texas hosted by the fantastic company that hosts our website and coaches us on all of our online marketing. I returned home on brain-overload. But, there are several things I learned through this experience that may be helpful for those of you who are attending your first (or tenth!) conference in the near future.
1. Go in with a game-plan, but be flexible
Bayley (one of my team-mates) and I went into this conference with some things that we were hoping to learn. But we also went in with a "sponge" mentality. We knew that to get the most out of it, we needed to be able to soak it all in. We both left with the information we were hoping to attain, but we also left with some important info that wasn't on our radar before. Be flexible.
2. Be willing to go out of your comfort zone
I am naturally an introvert, so honestly, I was pretty nervous to enter a space with 700 strangers and have to do the meet/greet/small talk thing/network thing. But, I forced myself to be present, and let it happen as naturally as possible. I ended up meeting some incredible people. Maybe you are an extrovert, and you have to reign it in and focus on the content instead of the networking. My advice would be the same - be present, wherever you are.
3. Write it down
Don't trust your memory. If something important happens, write it down. Take notes. Takes notes during sessions, for sure, but also note significant conversations that might spark ideas later on.
4. When you get home, organize and prioritize
The first thing I did on the Monday morning after we arrived home was to consolidate my notes. My tendency is to try and do everything at once, which only serves to overwhelm me and pile on stress. So, after consolidating my notes, I bullet-pointed tasks or ideas that I wanted to further explore. Then, I prioritized the list. Now, instead of feeling completely overwhelmed with all the new information, I have a plan for implementation.
5. Share with your team
If you have a team, figure out the most important areas to share with them, and set a specific time in which to do it. In the process of organizing and prioritizing, I also created a (much shorter) bullet point list to share with team at our next meeting. But, don't overwhelm! For this particular conference, I came up with 4 major things to share with team. Many of the things we learned impact everyone, so keeping communication clear and having time to process together is important, but they don't usually need ALL the details!