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Creating Successful Leaders

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I know how it goes. You attend a professional conference (either by choice or because your company sent you), you learn a few things, you become motivated to make changes…and then you leave and neglect to follow up on any of it.

What good are these events if you never implement anything you learn?

It’s time to change the way we approach conferences. Start with the following four steps:

1. Do Your Homework

Before the conference begins, be sure to look up the schedule and note anything that appeals to you—relevant break-out workshops, lectures on interesting topics, events that might build your network. Going in with a plan helps you be more efficient with your time and prevents you from being roped into a lecture or workshop that might not actually suit your interests.

2. Ask Questions

Once you determine which sessions you’re going to attend, jot down questions you could ask the speaker/presenter. Keeping these questions in mind helps to deepen your relationship with the subject matter and keeps you engaged (if your questions are answered, great! If not, find time to ask them, if possible).

To dive deeper into a topic, ask follow-up questions to fellow attendees as well. Asking open-ended questions such as, “What did you think about [SUBJECT]?” or “What were your take-aways from the presentation?” will stimulate conversation and help keep the topic top-of-mind.

3. Find an Accountability Partner

There’s nothing like a little accountability to help you follow-through on committing to change. If you’re attending the conference with people you know, ask a trusted colleague (or colleagues—the more the better!) if they will agree to be your accountability partner. Say something to the effect of: “I’m really hoping to implement some of the things I learn this coming weekend. Are you hoping for the same? Would you want to do brief check-ins after the conference to make sure we’re both on track?”

Then, follow up! Schedule weekly or bi-weekly check-ins on your calendar (a simple chat over a cup of coffee will probably suffice).

If you’re feeling self-conscious about asking someone to be your accountability partner, try holding yourself accountable by scheduling—and committing to—self-check-ins. Set aside fifteen minutes every week, retrieve your conference notes, and see where you’re excelling and what areas need improvement.

4. Take Notes

Speaking of notes…take them! Jotting down your take-aways (and going over them shortly after the conference) will help you retain the information for longer.

Remember: Many speakers who present at conferences have valuable advice to share. You just have to be willing to listen, absorb it, and act.

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