Returning from a Conference: Six Steps for Avoiding Post-Conference Let-Down

Although I was not able to attend this year’s APRA conference in New Orleans, I’m not complaining, as I have been fortunate enough to have attended three conferences since July 2013.  One thing I’ve learned as a result of having attended many conferences over the years, though, is that the conference high can sometimes be followed by the post-conference let-down, as you return to your office and fall back into your old routine, or worse, you find that few are interested in the things you learned or the ideas you have for how to change or improve things.

So what is a newly re-energized employee to do?  The most important thing is to focus and to develop a plan.  That means you need to figure out what you learned at the conference that was most useful and most valuable, and then you need to figure out what you want to do differently and how you intend to implement those changes.

That last sentence said a lot rather abstractly, so below, I’ve broken it down into a list of steps you might take.

“New Orleans Lakefront Airport” by kevinomara (Kevin O’Mara) licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
  1. As you travel back from the conference (or at some point before you return to work next week), review your conference materials, and decide on three key points or issues you’d most like to focus on in the weeks and months ahead.  Why three?  One might be sufficient if it’s a big change, but start by identifying a few key areas for improvement, and then prioritizing.  I don’t recommend many more than three, though, because it is easy to lose focus and become overwhelmed.
  2. With your three key issues identified, begin to figure out the steps you need to take to bring about those changes.  Is there anything you can change by yourself, just by modifying your routine?  Or do they require more of a long-term change that will require systematic changes around your division or department?  Maybe the items on your list are a mix of both.
  3. If the issues that interest you involve others in your division or department, identify some key allies with whom you can share your ideas.  Maybe they are colleagues who went to the conference with you, or maybe they are people who work in completely different areas of development with whom you have developed a good working relationship over the years.
  4. With your action steps in mind and your allies identified, begin meeting and making plans to implement some of your changes.  Part of this involves thinking strategically, and recognizing the challenges and obstacles you are likely to encounter, be they technical, political, or both.
  5. With the challenges and obstacles clearly identified, revise and expand your action steps with your strategy in mind.  Maybe one person on your newly-assembled team has a better relationship with a particular individual or department than you do, and you need the cooperation of that individual department to bring about more of a change.  Or maybe what you really need to do is to develop a better communication plan for getting your message out to more people in the division.
  6. Be focused and persistent; recognize that you’re working to improve the system, and that systemic changes often take time.  You might start out with one vision, but you might end up in a completely different place, and that’s o.k.  The important thing is that you are remaining engaged, that you are taking action, and that you are forging stronger relationships with others in your department and your division in the process, and hopefully, everyone is working together more effectively than before to further the goals of your organization.

What do you generally do to retain your enthusiasm and engagement after you return from a conference?  Have you followed steps like those above in the past?  Or maybe you went about things in a different way?  Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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5 thoughts on “Returning from a Conference: Six Steps for Avoiding Post-Conference Let-Down

  1. This is a great article – it really captures the essence of the post-conference let-down and your suggestions/blueprint as to how to capitalize on the learning experience is spot-on. Thanks for summarizing in such a concise and formulaic format.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nice to hear from you, Miriam! Glad you appreciated the post. Of course, what I didn’t mention in the post is that these points are culled partly from advice I’ve received over the years from presenters and attendees at APRA and various other conferences, and from trying various approaches after conferences in the past.

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  2. Thanks for this timely post, Dean. I’m in the midst of typing up my APRA notes to share with my colleagues, and your point about picking just three key issues has inspired me to pare down my report so the best parts stand out. No need to bury the lead in a play-by-play of the entire conference, right?

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    1. Good to hear you liked the post. Yes, that sounds like a good strategy to me. I attended my first APRA conference in 2001 after receiving a scholarship from the APRA of Greater New York chapter. Following the conference, I was asked to do some sort of recap at the next APRA of Greater New York meeting. It was a long time ago, but I think I chose one session to talk about and a few other attendees each talked about a single session they had attended, as well.

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