If you are you planning on attending the ILEETA annual conference next week or any other conference this year make sure you plan in advance. Normally when we think of planning to attend a conference we think of logistics such as getting approval from the chain of command, securing funding, conference registration, travel arrangements and booking your accommodations.
I want you to also consider planning your learning. How do you plan your learning? Here are some ideas for your consideration:
- Before you go.
- Determine what you want to accomplish as a result of attending the conference.
- What do you hope to learn?
- What classes or presentations at the conference would challenge you to think differently and enhance your learning and growth?
- Where are the gaps in your knowledge, skills and abilities and which classes will help to address those gaps?
- Which classes would be of greatest benefit to the organization if you could bring that information back to enhance your training?
- Pack a notebook and pens.
- At the conference.
- Take notes at every class you attend.
- Write down the names of books recommended by presenters so you can followup with those later.
- Be flexible with the schedule in the event a class is cancelled or something else changes.
- Take the attitude to every class of being an open, active and engaged learner.
- Get to class early and sit somewhere other than the back rows.
- Plan to make one new connection each day. This is not simply shaking hands and getting a pocket full of business cards, this is about connecting with one person you did not know prior to the conference, learning about them and their struggles, challenges and successes.
- Starting Day 2 of the conference commit time each morning to sit down and write out “What I learned yesterday.” for every class you attended the previous day. Then write down at least one action step you will take to implement what you learned.
- If there is more than one trainer from your agency in attendance then get together at the start or end of each day to compare notes on what you learned. Make sure you are going to different classes most of the time to get the broadest exposure to new information and ideas.
- After the Conference.
- Have a post conference plan to share what you learned.
- How are you going to pass along the knowledge you gained from attending the conference?
- Make an appointment or appointments with your supervisor to talk about what you learned, what action steps you have committed to take, and who you will be sharing the information with.
- Make time to sit down with your fellow trainers and share your takeaways from each of the classes you attended as well as any resources you obtained at the conference. Engage in a discussion about how to best implement some of the new ideas into the existing training.
- Find an accountability partner and share your takeaways, action items and a timeline for implementing those action items. Ask them to hold you accountable to make sure you follow through with those action items.
Conferences can be a great way to get exposed to a large amount of information on a variety of topics. It is also an opportunity to make a few new quality connections with people who can be a sounding board and resource to you in the future (make sure it is a reciprocal relationship). In order to get the most out of every conference experience however, make sure you have a learning plan in place before you go.
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