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Workshops and Conferences

Where workshops are more focused, conferences tend to have many conflict opportunities for learning. With only so many hours in the day, it is impossible to attend everything and learn everything. Whether you are attending a workshop or a conference, these suggestions will help you maximize your learning opportunities. If you have a plan, there is a great chance that you will put into action what you have learned. The guidance below focuses primarily on being an attendee. If you are a speaker, Stephen Downes provides great advice.

Things to do before a conference

Taking to time to plan ahead will make your conference or workshop experience go much smoother. Having a plan takes the guess work out of what you will be doing next. Basically, you need to know why you are going to a conference. Here are things you might want to consider when putting together your plan.

  • Decide upon a tool to document your plan. Evernote is a powerful tool for capturing everything about your conference.
  • Capture the following information about your conference and travel plans:
    • Conference Schedule
    • Hotel Information
    • Flight Information
    • Car Rental Information
    • Transportation information, e.g. bus or train schedules, taxi numbers, etc.
  • Pack for the conference.
    • Bring appropriate clothing
    • Pack business cards to hand out as appropriate. [1] Consider capturing business cards you receive with Evernote. By taking a picture of the business card, you can they later search it.
    • Pack electronic charging devices.
    • If appropriate, bring samples of your work. [2]
    • Notetaking materials.
  • Review the conference schedule and decide which sessions to attend. Consider attending a session that you would normally not attend. [1], [3] If you find more than one session interesting, prioritize but list both; be prepared to go to the subsequent sessions, if the first session does not work out. [4]
  • If there is an attendee list or speaker list, identify individuals with whom you wish to network or at least meet; this is a great opportunity to talk with others about their research. [1], [2], [5] You may want to connect with people so that you can connect them with colleagues. [2]
  • Consider setting up meal or coffee appointments with speakers or attendees by email. [2]
  • Develop an awareness of information needs for the organization so that you can attend sessions and visit vendors who can fill those needs. [3]
  • With tools such as Twitter and Facebook, you can connect with speakers before you even attend their sessions. [2]
  • Plan to arrive early and stay a couple of days longer so that you can enjoy your conference location. [6]
  • Plan for emergencies from lost luggage to lost presentations. [6] Have copies of important documents.
  • Start following the hashtag for the conference. [6]
  • Prepare "elevator speeches" to talk about your research when the opportunity presents itself. [5]
  • If you are a blogger, consider also podcasting. Bring a recorder with you so that you can record an interview to broadcast later. [7]

Things to do during the conference

  • When going to each session try to capture the learning moment as well as a takeaway item that you could implement. [1]
  • When receiving a business card, make a note on the card or in Evernote why you made the connection. [1] Don't hand out business cards to everyone, only to those where you can actually make a connection. [2] Ideally, at the end of the day, send a note to individuals with whom you made a connection. [2]
  • Visit the exhibitor hall
    • Collect information that will possibly help you or someone else on your team.
    • Look for book ideas. [1] Take a picture of the book and save it to Evernote.
  • Collect Web sites that you want to visit to your notes.
  • Force yourself to network with others, ask questions of others. [8] Take time to introduce yourself to others sitting next to you or at your table. [9]
  • If you meet people at the conference, consider coordinating a time to eat a meal together. [4]
  • At the end of the day, send emails back to the organization with great idea or taskings. [3] Include necessary information such as contact information, urls, or other appropriate information.
  • Summarize your daily activities. [3] This will help make writing your trip report easier. Consider sending out a daily blog post summarizing the day.
  • Consider live-blogging the conference proceedings. [6]
  • Keep an eye on the backchannel with Tweetdeck or Hootsuite. [6]
  • Bring labels with your contact information to affix to place where there is a request to hand out more information.

Things to do after the conference

The main objectives following a conference are to organize your thoughts and store them for future retrieval, develop a plan of action to implement what you learned, and share your information with others.

  • Write a trip report capturing what you attended, what you learned, and what you plan to implement. Share this report with your colleagues and team mates.
  • Put together a list of potential speakers for groups and committees you are a member of. [3]
  • After you have settled in, again, send an email to connections you had made at the conference. [2]
  • Take time to thank your supervisor for allowing your to attend. [8]

Organize what you have learned

  • Take time to review the materials you have collected, organize them, and decide what to do with them. [6]
  • Organize Web sites you have captured. I recommend collecting them in a cloud-based tool such as Diigo, Delicious, or Evernote. [6]
  • Work on the connections you have made at the conference by adding them to your LinkedIn, following them on Twitter or Facebook, and adding them to your email contacts. [6]

Develop a plan of action

Conferences are a great opportunity to gain ideas to help move your research, project, and programs forward. Take the time to develop a plan of action from the ideas you have gleaned. Once you have organized your ideas, it is time to set up a plan of action. Identify items that you wish to pursue, and write tasks that include a timeline. [3]

Share what you have learned with others

When done with a conference, take time to share new tools and ideas with others.

  • One of the simplest ways is to simply send an email to colleagues and co-workers. [10]
  • Take time during a staff meeting or team meeting to share your findings with others. [10]
  • If you have a blog, consider writing a couple of posts to talk about what you have learned. [10]
  • Offer to provide training for others. [4]
  • Even if it is around the office cooler, take time to tell others what you have done at the conference. [3] This will help reinforce your personal learning.

Using Evernote to document your conference

Evernote is a virtual memory device. With Evernote, you can maintain notes, images, audio files, video files, etc. on everything related to your conference. One of the most important advantages of Evernote is its ability to synchronize across devices through the cloud. Another great feature of Evernote is its ability to actually search through words on an image. Here are suggestions for using Evernote to maximize your conference learning opportunities.

  • By sharing your conference notebook with others, you can share your notes, images, and experiences with colleagues. [11]
  • Capture the essentials related to your conference to Evernote. These can be email messages or actual Web page captures. Here are some examples such as:
    • Conference Schedule
    • Hotel Information
    • Flight Information
    • Car Rental Information
  • In a private notebook, you can upload and search presentation files. [11]
  • Evernote is a great place to capture images of business cards which you can search through later. [11]
  • If you take pictures of PowerPoint presentations, whiteboards, or easels, you can search through them using Evernote.
  • Evernote is also a great place to collect receipts. [11]

Following conferences you are not physically attending

Trying to attend every conference or workshop you are interested in can be expensive. It is possible to "watch" a conference and not physically be there. You can do this by following the conference on the Twitter backchannel using a hashtag. [12] Here are some suggestions for following a conference remotely:

  • Find the hashtag for the conference that you wish to follow. A hashtag begins with a "#" symbol, for example, the NETC 2012 conference had the following hashtag: #netc2012.
  • Use a tool such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to track the hashtag. Here are more instructions on Hootsuite and Tweetdeck.
  • If you have a question during a session you are following, feel free to contribute to the discussion by posting to Twitter with the hashtag. [12]
  • Following a conference in real time is a great way to interact; however, it can be time consuming. [12]
  • By searching for a hashtag, you can also review what was said after the conference has completed for the day. [12] Keep in mind that tweets have a short shelf life. There are a number of options for also archiving Twitter hashtag streams.
  • When you follow a Twitter stream or archive, you may want to consider culling information learned into a blog post or learning guide to share with others.

Recommended reading

Here are some posts that explore this topic in depth.

More information on this topic

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Thenot, C. (2012). Gathering More than Notes from Your Professional Conference Energize Inc. Blog. Retrieved from http://blog.energizeinc.com/blog/gathering-more-notes-your-professional-conference
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 DuBois, L. (2010). How to get the most out of a conference. Inc.. Retrieved from http://www.inc.com/guides/2010/09/how-to-get-the-most-out-of-a-conference.html
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Getman, J. & Reynolds, N. (2002). Ideas to action: Ten hints for getting the most from a conference. Educause Quarterly. Retrieved from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/EQM0239.pdf
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Berkun, S. (2003). #24 – How to get the most out of conferences. Scott Berkun. Retrieved from http://www.scottberkun.com/essays/24-how-to-get-the-most-out-of-conferences/
  5. 5.0 5.1 Brandt, P. (n.d.). Proven pointers for getting the most out of your next scientific conference. Training Initiative in Biomedical and Biological Sciences. Retrieved from http://www.med.unc.edu/oge/stad/tibbs/docs/UNC_TIBBS_sci_mtg_handout.pdf
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 Downes, S. (2011). How to get the most out of a conference. Half an Hour. Retrieved from http://halfanhour.blogspot.com/2011/11/how-to-get-most-out-of-conference.html
  7. Ravenscraft, C. (2012). 007 The podcast report – Tips for getting the most from your conference experience. NMX. Retrieved from http://www.blogworld.com/2012/05/18/007-the-podcast-report-tips-for-getting-the-most-from-your-conference-experience/
  8. 8.0 8.1 McCarthy, D. (2009). How to Get the Most Out of a Conference. Great Leadership. Retrieved from http://www.greatleadershipbydan.com/2009/05/how-to-get-most-out-of-conference.html
  9. Phibbs, Bob. (2011). Twelve do’s and don’ts for getting the most from a conference. Bob's Blog. Retrieved from http://www.retaildoc.com/blog/twelve-dos-and-don%E2%80%99ts-for-getting-the-most-from-a-conference/
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Provenzano, N. (2012). You Just Attended an Awesome Conference. Now What? Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/conference-to-dos-professional-development-nicholas-provenzano
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Gray, M. (2009). How to use Evernote to create the ultimate post conference reference guide. Graywolf's SEO Blog Retrieve from http://www.wolf-howl.com/tools/how-to-use-evernote-to-create-the-ultimate-post-conference-reference-guide/
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Kelly, D. (2012). How to learn from a conference you aren't attending. Mindflash. Retrieved from http://www.mindflash.com/blog/2012/05/how-to-learn-from-a-conference-you-arent-attending/

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