Non-profit operational leaders can get huge value out of attending internal and external conferences. Much of my work today centers around partnerships that I formed while attending conferences.
Conferences can also be a huge waste of time if you’re not intentional. Here are six tips for getting good value out of a conference.
0. Meet people. Let’s face it, if the real purpose of a conference was to listen to the plenary sessions you could save the airfare and the conference fee and watch the live stream at home in your underwear. Eat meals with people you don’t know. Introduce yourself to the person next to you. Don’t always sit with your friends or team. Take the speaker out for lunch and ask him for more details.
1. Keep a hit-list. Who do you want to talk to? What are you going to talk to them about? Writing things down helps you remember what is important.
2. Tweet about it. Share your learning. People can get valuable information from sessions they couldn’t attend or a link that supports what someone is preaching. Your team back home can track and pick-up relevant knowledge as well.
3. Don’t check email. The purpose of your job is not email. I don’t understand people who use the breaks to rush away and “do email.” I’ve told myself that if I can’t leave my team for three days and have the ship run smoothly, then I’m not doing my job. Use breaks to meet people that you would never otherwise see. Your email will still be there 24 hours later.
4. Ask, “how can we partner together?” There might not be anything obvious, but it will at least force the other person to try and better understand your job. If you have a common purpose, there’s often efficiency and effectiveness to be that can get synergized. In a non-profit, you’ll struggle to build capacity if you’re not willing to ask this question.
5. Decide to eat only one plate of food. Buffets are killer.
I’m currently at the MinistryNet Conference. 175 registered from 37 countries. It’s going to be a blast.