Discovering Conference Gold

Ten easy ways to share your conference learnings with the rest of your team.

By Kate Shipley Richey

Spring has a habit of sneaking up on us. At Plaid, this is mainly because we’ve spent all fall and winter planning, building, and facilitating at conferences. Industry conferences are a great break from the usual routine, and it’s exciting to meet people, consider new ideas, and engage in the optimism that so often permeates a conference atmosphere. What good are they, though, if we don’t actually implement any of these newly learned best practices? For many of us, conference season has come and gone, and what did we do with all the things we learned? All those insightful sessions and invigorating calls to action probably just sat on our desks along with those ribbon-festooned nametags. Even the best of intentions (accompanied by ferociously written underlines and stars in our programs) fall flat if we don’t have actionable ways of bringing these learnings back to the home office.

Depending on the purpose of the conference, the structure of your team, or the function of your staff, the way you share or enact conference ideas may differ. Perhaps your entire staff attended the conference, but you all participated in different educational tracks or different topical sessions. Maybe you were the only representative from your team or staff at this particular conference, and it’s your responsibility to share what you learned with everyone back home. Regardless of the way in which you participated in the conference, we could all use some fresh ideas on how to bring the learning home and help instill it in others. After all, there’s strength in numbers, and it’s much easier to accomplish improvement and change at work if we aren’t the only ones responsible for it.

There are any number of ways that you might share, inspire, and engage others in the ideas you bring back from a conference. If you have a favorite tried-and-true method, let us know in the comments below! If not, I’ve picked ten tangible ways to share or apply all that conference gold.

  1. Give a Presentation

Giving a presentation is the ol’ standby for information sharing. Consider giving a quick recap of the conference and highlight the most important or impactful sessions you attended. Using an accompanying slide deck can help you share visuals, if needed. Using an in-person or virtual presentation format also allows you to share the workload with others who were at the conference, splitting up who talks about which topic. This type of presentation would fit nicely into a staff meeting or other gathering of the minds.

  • Provide an Email Summary

Even faster and easier than a presentation would be to send out an email summary of the conference. Emails could be split up by day or by session, depending on what kind of email culture you have at your company. Since email provides a written record, it would be easy to search for your summary later, and you could easily include any links or attachments that might be necessary.

  • Host a Lunch & Learn

Similar to a presentation (but maybe a bit more fun) is hosting a Lunch & Learn. In this format, your presentation is limited to the amount of time your team or staff takes for lunch, and you could open it on a come-as-you-can basis, where team members enter and leave throughout the lunch period. This might work best for those interested in sharing information outside of their own working group but who might need an excuse to incentivize others to attend. If you’re able to provide lunch, even better, but BYOL (Bring Your Own Lunch) would work just fine.

  • Lead a Game or Contest

As far as implementation goes, leading a game or contest is a clear way to measure the learning that happened during the conference. Pick a specific skill, piece of advice, or best practice that was shared at the conference, and challenge your team to apply it. If you’re able to clearly communicate the skill or goal, it’s not even necessary for your entire team to have been physically present at the conference itself. They should be able to use your description to build a game-plan. Using competition as motivation is a fun way to practice new skills and measure what it will take to fully integrate them into your daily routine.

  • Live Tweet or Message via Slack, Basecamp, Etc.

Perhaps in-the-moment updates are more your thing. In that case, consider live tweeting or broadcasting from the conference itself. This tactic allows any followers (ideally your team members back home or in different educational tracks) to learn along with you in real time. Before the conference begins, make sure anyone who needs or wants to be involved has your social media handle and hashtags to be able to tune in. This could work particularly well for social-savvy teams or groups that work closely with younger generations like GenZ. For an even more direct approach, consider making live updates within a designated chat location on your company’s Slack, Basecamp, or other project management and communication platform.

  • Hold a Show & Tell

For a more tactile experience, collect all the physical materials you can find at the conference. Then, when you get back to the office, hold a Show & Tell where team members can review the program, handouts, and other materials. This would work best for conferences from which you can drive (rather than fly), since you wouldn’t have to worry as much about having enough room to pack additional materials to take back. You might consider pairing this with another form of information-sharing, but the ability to physical feel and interact with the materials provides an added level of connection for those who weren’t there in person.

  • Create an Applied Skills or Knowledge Competition

If you want a more serious way of applying conference learnings than a game or contest, consider a full-on skills competition or case study. Select the skills or pieces of knowledge from the conference that you need your team to employ. Then, create a competition directly connected to a specific goal or project that the team is working on. Using this tactic can quickly help you apply best practices gleaned from the conference, and it can also have a direct effect on the work you’re currently doing.

  • Schedule a Staff or Team Retreat

Since conferences are often uplifting and forward thinking, the ideas or concepts they introduce are perfect fodder for a team retreat. Particularly if you schedule the retreat at the beginning of a new year or just before your busy season, it’s an ideal time and medium for focusing on how new ideas and best practices can improve your work. This approach gives you uninterrupted time to introduce what you’ve brought back to the team, and it allows them space to really engage with those ideas, rather than just listen and give you a thumbs up. Consider scheduling discussions and activities around each of the take-aways you brought back from the conference.

  • Start a Supplemental Resources Challenge

Sharing what you learned at a conference doesn’t have to be relegated to just what happened at the conference itself. Extend the work of the conference by challenging your team members (whether they were there in person or not) to find supplemental resources and materials that provide more context around a specific idea or best practice. Using this approach prompts people to contribute to the conversation in ways that are meaningful but not dependent on whether they attended each session (or any sessions). A bonus to this idea is that it creates a new conversation and bank of resources that is specific to your own team.

  1. Lead a Whiteboarding Session

No matter how old we are, I think many of us love writing on a white board (or a chalkboard, smart board, or really any board in front of other people). Use this temptation to your advantage by hosting a Whiteboarding Session to teach others the main points from the conference. Use the whiteboard to help your team brainstorm what to do with conference information, or simply play hangman to help you introduce key points and ideas. The benefit of using this approach is that it’s not so important how you use the whiteboard but that using it increases interaction and engagement with your team.

Let’s face it, we all have the best of intentions when it comes to using what we learn at conferences and industry events, but, often, what’s presented at conferences doesn’t consider the realities of our daily work. Coming back to budgets and politics and a full inbox often get in the way of what we dreamed about doing when we were in-session. At Plaid, we get it. Half the time, we’re the ones at the front of the ballroom hoping you’ll take something back. Since we go to a fair number of conferences, ourselves, we know how difficult it can be to enact change based on an hour-long session you heard at an event. These ten ideas are our way of trying to further the conversation. If any of these approaches sound do-able to you, we hope you’ll give them a try!

To learn more about conferences designed by Plaid, or which Plaid programs might spice up a conference you’re building, contact us

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