MB 2010 Now that busy season has come to a close, you are probably gearing up to attend at least one conference between now and next busy season. Conferences are amazing – you have a buffet of learning and networking opportunities and access to a myriad of ideas to implement when you get back to the office.

You will likely leave your conference feeling motivated and energized to make some positive changes.  You may get back into your office and enthusiastically share what you’ve learned with your colleagues.  You have been sprinkled with “conference pixie dust!”  It is an uplifting and many times eye-opening experience.  If you could keep this “conference pixie dust” forever, you would be more motivated and energized to follow through on your ideas, dreams, and goals.

But, one of the problems with “conference pixie dust” is that it wears off.  As soon as you get back and start “catching up” on returning e-mails, voicemails, and completing work that you may have put on hold while you were out, the pixie dust begins to fade.  You may have a long list of things that you want to follow up on and accomplish, but you put it aside along with your conference materials, handouts, notes and business cards until you “have time.”  Your materials may sit on your desk, on the back table, or in a drawer until you “have time.”  Unfortunately, typically they end up at the bottom of the pile, in the back of the drawer, or on the floor in the farthest corner of your office.  It’s a sad, sad situation – all of those great ideas and good intentions buried away.

Another problem with conference pixie dust is that it isn’t always contagious.  When you come back to your office, beaming with motivation and ideas to share with you colleagues, they may respond in a less than positive manner because they didn’t get any pixie dust and they may be stuck in the middle of their “day-to-day” work and unable to lift their heads up from that to see the possibility and room for positive change that you see.  They may make negative, doubtful or even sarcastic remarks when you share your goals and ideas for implementation.

What can you do to keep yourself from losing the motivation and momentum that you gained while attending your conference, association meeting, or other training session? 

Here are some ideas:

  • Select two or three major actions or commitments at the most – You are less likely to follow-through and complete your commitments if you have too many of them.  It is tempting to set very ambitious goals when you have been sprinkled with conference pixie dust, but you can have too much of a good thing.  Too many good ideas can seem like a wonderful thing, but it can also be very overwhelming.  As you attend your conference, meeting or training session, maintain a running list of all of the things that you “might” do.  Then, at the end of the conference, review your list and highlight the top two or three things that would make the biggest positive difference and set goals related to them.  You will be more focused and better equipped to prioritize your efforts and schedule your time.
  • Find someone to hold you accountable – The minute you tell someone else about your post-conference goals, the more likely you are to achieve them. Identify someone that you can enlist to help hold you accountable to following through on your goals and ideas.  If you attended the conference with a co-worker, ask them to be your accountability partner.  Tell them what your deadline is for completing the action or reaching your goal and let them know that they can expect to receive an e-mail from you by that date, informing them that you have kept your commitment.  Give them permission to check in with you and to reach out to you if they haven’t heard from you by the deadline.  And, don’t forget to be interested in what their “take aways” were from the conference and ask them how you can support them in achieving their goals and practicing good conference follow-up habits.
  • Schedule time in your calendar for conference follow-up activities – Ideally you will do this before you leave for the conference and schedule your block or blocks of time as close to the end of the conference as possible, while the information and your spark are still fresh.
  • Be prepared for the negativity that you may encounter when sharing your ideas Being away from the office and in an environment rich with brainstorming, new ideas, and forward-looking thinking can be very conducive to growth and positive change and improvement.  Sometimes putting time and space between you and your “everyday” work environment is just the prescription for getting out of a rut and injecting passion, drive, energy, and ambition into your mindset. That’s why people go away on team retreats and need to “go away to think and regroup.”  Keep in mind that the people that you left behind when you went to your conference have not had the benefit of this time and space and were not sprinkled with pixie dust, so they may not be quite as enthusiastic or open-minded as you would hope.  Being prepared for any type of reaction that is less than positive or supportive will help protect you from letting your ideas be squashed by negative or skeptical voices.  You can prepare and even minimize this reaction by:
    • Synthesizing your ideas down into two or three commitments
    • Identifying the positive result you will achieve when you follow-through on it
    • Communicate the positive result and the benefit to the people you’re sharing it with to help them see the possibility that you see
  • Create a place to track possible future actions Remember that running list of things that you “might do” that I asked you to track throughout the conference?  Remember the list of things that didn’t quite make it into your top two or three?  There are likely a lot of really good, actionable ideas there and you don’t want them to be lost forever.  (You just don’t want to focus on them right now, thereby risking becoming overwhelmed and stretched too thin to be effective at any of them.)  Document them and create a special file for these “future actions” so that you can circle back around to them once you have successfully completed your first batch of goals and/or actions.

The information and insights that you gain at conferences, training sessions, and other professional association meetings can be very powerful, but they can also be very overwhelming if you don’t have a plan for follow-up and implementation.  Now you have a plan that will keep you more focused and accountable!  And it’s not too late to set goals or create actions related to past events either!

What conferences or meetings have you been to this year?  What were your biggest “take-aways” and what related goals could you set?  What conferences or meetings are you planning on attending the remainder of the year?  Maybe we’ll see you there – or in the airport as my colleague Tamera suggested in last week’s post, Networking Begins at the Airport!

Best regards,

Michelle Baca