Are you planning to attend a conference or other continuing education program? You’ll get so much more value out of the educational programs you attend if you’re well prepared for them. Here are some tips:
Before You Go:
• Read up on the subject. Ask yourself, “What do I know now?” and “What would I like to learn or reinforce at the conference or program?”
• Plan questions to raise and bring relevant materials to share. Also bring helpful study aids – a digital recorder, pens, file folders, etc.
Tip: Don’t assume that the program will provide you with good writing paper for your notes or good pens. Many hotel meeting rooms provide no writing materials or only small pencils and memo pads, which makes note-taking difficult.
• Wear comfortable yet professional clothing to the program. Bring along a jacket or sweater. Meeting room temperatures are often too hot or cold.
• Study advance materials provided by the sponsor. Complete any reading assignments, forms, or tests provided.
• Plan a sensible bedtime and stick to it. If you have an 8:00 a.m. seminar, get to bed early. As a rule of thumb, it usually takes 10 hours of rest in a hotel to equal seven hours in your own bed.
• Free your mind of current tasks and problems that someone else can handle while you’re gone. Limit phone calls from home, except after the program or for emergencies. Leave your problems and worries outside the room and let your sense of adventure take over. Suspend your resistance and be open to the ideas and information you’re about to receive. Treat your learning experience like a mini-vacation. Be willing to encounter the unexpected.
• Bring a good supply of your business cards. Keep them handy and also prepare a good way to keep the many business cards you will collect while at the program.
At the Program:
• Walk into the seminar room early and with the attitude of wanting to participate. Choose a seat near the front of the room and away from distractions. Make sure you’ll be able to see and hear what’s going on.
• Listen actively and well. Work hard to understand and absorb the speaker’s messages. Be on the lookout for information that will help you.
• Be responsible for what happens in the classroom. Do you realize, for instance, that you can help the facilitator do a better job? By nodding, smiling, responding, and speaking up with enthusiasm, you can encourage or discourage the person leading the seminar. Likewise, if you frown or appear indifferent, you may have a negative impact on the person leading the course. By supporting the teacher, you’ll get a better class.
• Take two sets of notes. Make one set factual (important points given in the program) and another of action ideas that you get during the program. Look for ways to apply ideas immediately and commit to them.
• Discuss seminar topics with other participants during the breaks and meals. Stay fully present in your learning.
Tip: Eat sensible meals and avoid alcohol during the program. Heavy meals and drinking may make you sluggish.
— Dr. Laura Hills, President, Blue Pencil Institute, www.bluepencilinstitute.com