There is a lot going on! There are so many great sessions, it is hard to choose which one to attend. Like any other learning experience, setting some goals and creating a strategy will help you get the MOST out of the LERN conference. Here are some tips to help you plan:
1. Read the conference agenda thoroughly. Pre-plan each day and select the sessions that will be most likely to improve your skills. Stay away from where you have a good grounding in the information, and "stretch" by hearing about topics you have not mastered. If you find yourself in a session that is not what you expected, quietly leave and go to your second choice. We want you to get the knowledge you need, so leave a session if it is not working for you and find one that does.
2. Create a plan for what you want to learn and share when you get home. If your boss has sent you to the conference, you want to be able to demonstrate that the investment in your professional development will pay off. If there are other staff who could not attend, be sure to have specific information to share. Arrange for a post-conference staff meeting to present what you learned.
3. Ask a professional colleague to become your conference buddy, so you can share what you learn. If you are attending with others from your organization, attend separate sessions and then share information. This collaboration will bring special benefits when you talk about presentations that only one of you attended.
4. Stay for the entire conference. You never know what good information you might miss by arriving late or leaving early. Don’t skip sessions, either. LERN allows plenty of free time for enjoying the area, and we make a point to end each day early so attendees can get out and see the sights.
5. Distribute plenty of business cards, to help new acquaintances remember you and to expand your network of contacts.
6. Collect as many business cards as you can, so you can follow up with post cards, E-mails, phone calls and appointments, and create new business relationships. But, as with an “all you can eat buffet,” don’t overdo it.
7. Become an active participant, asking questions and making comments. The topics will take on new life for you.
8. Participate in Conference Tweets. Tweet your comments and experiences from the conference to share with colleagues. Post pictures of conference events and activities. #LERN14
9. Use the LERN app. The LERN mobile app will help you plan your schedule, access handouts and slides for each session you attend, and more. If you need help with the app, check with LERN staff at the registration desk. Any of them can help.
10. Visit LERN exhibitors. Our vendors are an important part of the LERN conference. The products and services they offer are valuable to your work Take at least an hour to walk through the exhibition floor and see if there are any companies that you may be interested in. Even if you don’t want to buy anything, you can get a lot from exhibitors--Other than swag you can get free products and services that will help your business grow.
11. Attend conference receptions and social events. Everyone is family at LERN. Even if this is your first conference, we want you to feel at home. Attending social events will help you expand your professional network and get information you won’t get any other way at conference. If you need help or have questions, just ask a LERN staff member. We are here to make your conference experience THE BEST you have ever had.
12. Create an “elevator” pitch. Before you can start mingling and networking, you need to have a plan—especially if you are new to the LERN conference. It may seem like everyone else knows people, but don’t let that keep you from joining in. First, that is not the case, and second, you have a lot to offer. Keep it simple. Include:
a. Your name
b. What you do
c. Why you are here
d. A question to generate a two way exchange.
“For example, Hi, I’m Julie Coates and I work at LERN. I came to Orlando because I love sharing information that works with our members. What is it that made you want to come to LERN’s conference?” From there, you are home-free. Let the networking begin.
13. Talk to LERN Presenters. LERN presenters are here because we are committed to helping you achieve excellence in your programs. Introduce yourself and tell us what you do. We want to know. Ask us your questions and how we can help you after conference is over.
14. Think short-term and long term. Many LERN recommendations and best practices can be implemented immediately. You can start putting them into place the day you get back to your office. Others require more time and planning. Plan on following up with LERN staff to help you put the information you gained into action.
15. Use the Conference Overview document to create an action plan. We all know that the great ideas we get from conferences can get lost when we are back in the office, dealing with the day to day business of our organization. Create an implementation plan, based on the sessions you attend. You can’t possibly put all the new ideas you get into practice, but make a list of the top 1-3 things you can implement from each session you attend. This will help you put your learning into practice.
Conference Action Plan Template
1. Central ideas From the session
2. Define issues/goal (e.g., increase response to email marketing)
3. 1-3 ideas or strategies that can be implemented
4. Action Items (1-3)
5. Next Steps
The format above can serve as a basic template for capturing ideas and generating action steps from conference. Once you have returned to your office, you can expand this template into a project planning document which might include:
3. Who’s responsible
4. Specific action steps
You can also use it to help plan a presentation to staff on what you learned and kick off a brainstorming session.
Welcome to the 2014 LERN Conference. Happy LERNING!