By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA content manager
You can’t control the amount of work piling up while attending a conference, but you can control how your time spent there benefits you in the long run. Here’s how to ensure your upcoming conference attendance is worth the time, money and effort:
Prepare beforehand - “The preparation process starts before you attend the conference,” said Tiffany Crosby, CPA and OSCPA’s director of learning. Look over the conference schedule and familiarize yourself with the sessions that best align to your business objectives. Consider the key initiatives, projects and goals you’re working on, and look for the appropriate sessions offering that knowledge and skillset. You’re hurting yourself if you walk to the registration table with no idea of what you signed up for that day.
Stay engaged - During the presentation, avoid setting your mind on passive autopilot or furiously scribbling notes the entire time. Either extreme will cause you tomiss out on the chance to learn the important takeaways. Crosby advised taking some key notes during the presentation while also remaining engaged by asking questions and participating in discussions. Chances are, these speakers are experts in their fields and you have a unique opportunity to learn from them, so take advantage of it and stay present during the session.
Take action afterward - As soon as the conference is over, consider two or three things you’ve learned from your sessions you can act on almost immediately. These are items that clearly align with your larger business objectives. “I think where sometimes people are hesitant to do that is when they think they’ve just created another task for themselves, and that can feel like a burden,” Crosby said. “But if you’re measuring the ROI for how much was invested in attending this conference, what would you include in that return on investment? It has to go beyond gaining a little more knowledge about a specific topic.”
Reflect on what’s next - Once you’re back in the office looking at all of the work you need to catch up on, it’s tempting to push what you learned at the conference to the backburner. Crosby said this is a chance to think differently, especially if after being out of the office for two or three days you think you don’t have any time to reflect on the conference. “There needs to be that mental shift of ‘I can’t afford to take additional time’ to ‘I can’t afford not to,’” she said. Schedule several hours in your calendar or add it to your to-do list to figure out action items and how to implement what you’ve learned in your organization.