Getting the Max from a Conference

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As I write this, many FPA members are at the National Conference in Anaheim. Our industry puts on a wide variety of conferences throughout the year, offering opportunities to learn, grow and connect. The challenge for participants is how to maximize the time you spend at a conference to yield a healthy ROI when you get back to your office.

How can we more efficiently engage in the conference offerings? Perhaps we can draw upon active reading skills.

As a student, I was taught to peruse a reading assignment before I actually started to read it. For example, I was encouraged to think about the title of the assignment and what information might be covered in the material, to skim the table of contents and headlines throughout the assigned pages, and to look at the pictures and read the captions. All of this was to encourage me to proactively generate questions I would like to learn the answers to—before I ever began reading. The process engaged me.

It’s easy to go to a conference and simply be entertained. But if you want the maximum return from your investment of time, I recommend that you think about just what it is you want to get out of a conference and the sessions you plan to attend. Using the active reading skills above, study any handouts in advance and generate a list of questions you hope will be addressed. If they aren’t, ask them!

Another technique you might consider is a mind map—a diagram of words, ideas and other tasks that link to a central keyword or idea. Some advisers find it useful for taking notes during sessions. It helps you go beyond simply capturing content, offering an easy way to catch the muse of inspiration when it hits, especially if the inspiration helps you envision how you’ll apply the information to your practice.

When you return from a conference, you may find it helpful to schedule a staff meeting on your first day back so you can share the highlights of what you learned—while everything is still fresh in your mind. You know how busy you will be when you come back—and it’s all too easy to put off the meeting indefinitely. By the time you get around to sharing the insights you gained, it’s likely that you will have forgotten half of what you found so exciting and applicable to your practice. So do it early!

These are just a few starting points to help you structure your conference experience. What techniques and approaches have you found to help ensure that the information you are exposed to gets translated back to your practice for a maximum ROI?

Joni YoungwirthJoni Youngwirth
Managing Principle of Practice Management
Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, Mass.

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