Welcome to a TWIST Blog Series – What’s in Your Conference Bag? This series explores the various ways people prepare for and get more out of a conference. Each week we’ll feature a new Learning and Development Professional who will answer a series of questions and share his or her personal tips for maximizing a conference experience.
What you do: My official title is Sr. Learning Specialist, but it doesn’t come close to describing what I do. I ask “why”. I advocate for the learner, simplicity and social learning (or at least sharing). I push for new ways to think about and explain our products. I ask questions, try to break down silos, facilitate conversations, design/develop/deliver/market learning. And as always, continue my quest for World Domination…
Where you do what you do: Guardian Analytics, Inc. – a big data startup in Silicon Valley.
Something most people don’t know about you: I’m inherently shy. It took over 10 years for me to attend my 1st conference because was petrified of being a lost soul in a large room. I find it INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT to walk up to a stranger and say, “Hi! My name is Tricia.”
One word that describes why you attend conferences: Relationships
Besides the conference-provided materials, what types of things do you carry in your conference bag?
- I throw out the conference-provided materials because they make my conference bag too heavy. I have a bad neck/spine.
- I always have an extension cord/strip. It’s amazing how few convention buildings have outlets! Why is that anyway?
- A hard copy of my top 5 sessions for each time slot.
- I also have my phone, iPad and laptop, paper/pencil, at least 2 scented lotions and usually 2 different perfumes.
- Candy and ice tea or pop.
What types of things do you do BEFORE a conference to plan and get more out of the experience?
I figure out my goal for attending the conference, and then I search for sessions that help me achieve that goal and that aren’t too far away from each other. Then I figure out a plan B, C, D and E for each session in case of cancellations, over-crowding or just disappointment. I reach out to my PLN (personal learning network) to see who else is going to be there and what their focus is.
I always plan alone time so I can decompress. It really is stressful for me to be “on” all the time. I use Yelp and Urbanspoon to scout out restaurants!
What about AFTER a conference? What do you do to keep the learning going after the conference ends?
I mentally review sessions and conversations and ask myself, “why” or “why not”? There’s always at least one idea I think is realistic and easily implemented. I create mini-sessions for my co-workers to get their input and try it out. I debrief/ vent/ rave/ rant to my most wonderful husband, Jimmy. I tell him how I think I can implement an idea, or why I was disappointed in a session. This goes on for weeks (he’ll tell you it goes on for years).
What apps/tools/resources help you get the most out of a conference? (It doesn’t have to be technology)
- Laughter and an open mind.
- Twitter. Twitter is my note-taking app. If I can hear something, synthesize it, put my spin on it, and tweet it in less than 140 characters…well, it sticks in my brain. And this leads me to the next resource…
- Wi-fi. Why don’t more convention buildings have better wi-fi covering the entire building? Why do I need to re-logon every five minutes? WHY????
- Conversations with old friends, new friends and people who have different ideas than I do.
- Closest Walgreens or 7-11 so I don’t have to pay convention prices for my pop and candy.
- Conference app!
- Paper and pencil
- Social time
Do you prefer to use a paper program guide for a conference or a dedicated conference app? Why?
- App for room changes, schedule changes, and bios.
- Paper to mark up my top 5 choices for each time slot.
- Twitter to take notes.
When traveling to and from a conference, how do you pass the time?
Playing Boggle on my phone, reading regency-ear romance novels (don’t judge me), planning world domination, and talking with friends/family.
New ideas, even if I don’t agree with them.
What topics are you most interested in right now?
- Similarities of ID, marketing, sales, communications, advertising, movies, myths, gaming and stories.
- The Internet of Things
- Social listening, simplicity, micro-courses, personalization, scriptwriting, and using videos
If you could give one piece of advice to someone attending a conference for the first time, what would it be?
Create a schedule of the most interesting sessions focused on your current goals/aspirations. Then pick out at least 3 alternatives for each of those sessions. It’s all about the focus.
If you were to give a new attendee one task to complete that would define conference success, what would it be?
Come up with an elevator pitch describing what made the conference successful for them.
Does your employer financially support your attendance at a conference? If yes, how did you persuade your boss to approve you attending?
That depends. I’ve had several employers over the past several years. Some did, some didn’t. Some asked me to use vacation time and some haven’t. Here’s what I’ve used in the past:
“Conferences pay for themselves in two ways – relationships and new efficiencies. Last week we had an issue preventing us from deploying the courses. I reached out to my network and got an answer in 10 minutes. It saved us at least 16 hours of research and troubleshooting and enabled us to go-live on-schedule.”
Anything else you’d like to share?
Did I mention world domination?
Interested in being a guest for a future “What’s in Your Conference Bag post? Please reach out to David Kelly for details.