Even though I am an experienced consultant, conferences are a key part of my practice regeneration and networking strategy. However, although I do meet interesting people, get great ideas and learn about what is going on in my area of practice, I think the value does not last as long as I'd like.
For many consultants, a conference is an important strategy to develop new skills and new business. However, many of us think of conferences as expenses and not investment. We conclude that we are spending a few days "away from our business" and we need to get back to work as soon as we can to "make up for the lost time."
There is a better way to look at this. First, you are taking time to work on your business so you are best served by leveraging the information you gained and people you met. You don't visit a prospect or client without a well thought out plan of how the event will go; do the same for a conference. Have a plan and work it.
Second, the time right after the conference is potentially the most productive. On the plane ride home, send a follow up email to each person of interest you met (you can knock out 30-40 short emails that will be appreciated and may result in a response waiting for you by the time you arrive home). Go through conference material and note the items you think can best help your business - and toss the rest. Go over your preconference plan and see how you did, making notes for the next conference to gain even greater value. Tip:
Tip: Don't come home and put your conference binder on the shelf and toss collected business cards in a drawer. Schedule a half to whole day immediately after you arrive home to consolidate all you learned and connect with your new contacts. © 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA