Prepare For Your Best Conference Yet

We know that many of our clients are planning to attend the FPA Annual Conference next week in Minneapolis. Here is the article that Adam wrote for the Conference blog that you might find helpful. Even if you’re not able to make the FPA’s conference, you’ll find lots of good tips for the next conference you do attend.

Before the Conference

Start with a plan (of course!). Take some time to review the agenda, particularly for those times where you have to choose from multiple sessions.

Begin to develop a strategy for where you want to be throughout each day. Can’t decide? Coordinate with a colleague to split sessions. Or, plan to purchase the recordings.

Prepare for the sessions. As you review each session, jot down some notes about exactly what you are looking for from that speaker or presentation. Did the speaker write a book? Download it to your iPad or Kindle; use some of your travel time to browse through the chapters. Or read the reviews on Amazon to get a sense for the author and his or her background and perspective. You might even prepare some questions in case you get an opportunity to ask them.

At the Conference

Sit in the front and don’t multitask. In a big conference center, it’s easy to be distracted by all the people around you or the phone that’s vibrating in your pocket. By sitting upfront, you can see the speaker’s face, focus on the slides and really listen to what he or she has to say.

Meet people. Look for the successful planners and advisers around you. Strike up a conversation with someone new. Ask what they are doing to grow their businesses and share your own good ideas. Since it’s unlikely that you’ll ever find yourself in competition with them, it’s okay to trade business cards and connect on LinkedIn.

Jot some notes to yourself after you meet them—who they are and what you discussed. You may even want to note where you spoke with them for a visual reminder. Otherwise, you’ll go home with a stack of cards and you won’t remember who was who.

Record the best ideas. Carry along a small notebook or use your phone or tablet to record the most important concepts and ideas you hear. Aim for three key takeaways from each session you attend.

Before each day is done, review your notes, distill the best ideas and prepare for tomorrow. Keep a single “best ideas” page, so they’re gathered in one spot.

Stay healthy. It is easy to eat and drink too much of the wrong things, not get enough sleep and stray off your fitness routine. Don’t do it! You’re going to need energy and a positive attitude from morning to evening. Don’t miss the opportunity to capture a great idea because you weren’t fully engaged.

After the Conference

With calls to return, emails that need responses and everything else you on your to-do list, it would be easy to let all those great ideas fall by the wayside. Don’t!

Instead, here’s how to make the most of everything you learned:

  • Sort through whatever you brought back. Give away the tchotchkes to someone who will enjoy them and discard anything you know you won’t read or use.
  • Review your notes and materials. Decide which takeaways are the most valuable and that you intend to implement. Share those ideas with your team, your assistant or your spouse. Make certain someone else knows what you commit to implementing (including the specifics of what you will do and when you will do it).
  • Follow up with people with whom you want to develop a relationship. Add them to your CRM and connect with them on LinkedIn. Decide on next steps to stay in touch.

Finally, is there anyone you should thank for inviting you to the conference or making sure your time there was well-spent? Do that now! No doubt a lot of effort went into putting it all together, and a note of thanks would be greatly appreciated.

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