Shelley Story’s article posted in March warns against conference or professional development inspiration fading as you return to your everyday work plus an overflowing inbox for being out of the office. Having just come off attending two difference conferences – one for accreditation and one for assessment – I know it’s important for me and my institution not to let that happen.
First of all, it’s important to me to follow up on ideas, interests, resources, and new connections gained from the conference experience. While I prepare to bring a lot to a conference (resources, perspective, knowledge, willingness to engage and be an active participant), I want to be sure to take something away. I want to capitalize on ideas and interests, leveraging new resources to learn about, assist with, or brainstorm projects. I also want to be sure to capitalize on any connections I’ve made – either to obtain aforementioned resources or to have someone to add to my network of colleagues and peers with like interests or work experience.
Secondly, I owe it to my university to act upon return to campus. There was a resource commitment (time and money) for me to attend, so I need to provide a return on that investment. Additionally, just as I represented the university to the conference, I need to represent and bring back conference content to my university. To me, it’s a fair and manageable expectation given the investment made in me and the investment I am making in myself through such professional development opportunities.
It’s also important to ride the energy from those events. I can use it to stay motivated with a full plate, busy calendar, and unanticipated stressors or barriers to close out the academic year. I can take the extra pep in my step to go beyond my usual routine or work environment to engage with others – working to build relationships, reinforce connections, or learn something new about another area. I can also capitalize on the current boost of confidence and spirit to go after a goal or effort I might otherwise think is just out of reach.
Finally, I want to make use of reflection and realizations. To connect and learn, reflection was necessary on where my institution is with respect to various efforts, as well as work and accomplishments I’ve had to this point. Far too often, we are too caught up in moving from one project to the next that we don’t take a step back to recognize the growth, achievements, or even bigger picture to the process we’re engaged in. Conferences afford great opportunities to pause, reflect, and make sure the direction we’re heading is still right, true, and best for our purposes.
All of that said, here are the steps I’m following to best capitalize on my recent conference experiences:
- Compile my notes. Organizing my session notes of things I learned, questions to answer, and ideas to follow up on.
- Engage with contacts. If I have a business card or name written down from a session, I should contact for the appropriate reason – thanking them for a great session, providing a promised resource, exploring a conversation for which we didn’t have time while at the conference.
- Share with my institution. Given my notes and resources obtained from the conference, I owe it to various entities within my institution to share information and extend the audience for a given topic or effort.
- Identify at least two items to execute. From my compiled notes and ideas, I like to challenge myself to do at least two things – contact a new office, engage in a difficult conversation, move forward an existing initiative, or start a new project.
Every day, I will open my compiled list of information and notes and look to work through it until I have executed in those four areas. That’s my commitment, for me and the benefit of my university. I hope this reflection and list is helpful for others. If nothing else, it’s helping me accomplish some of my own tasks.