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Getting the Most from Your Blue Pencil Institute Program: A Checklist

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Career professionals will get so much more out of the Blue Pencil Institute programs they attend if they’re well prepared for them and if they organize their thoughts and notes afterwards. 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?”
  • Plan questions to raise and bring relevant materials to share. Also bring helpful study aids – a digital recorder, pens, file folders, etc.
  • Wear comfortable yet professional clothing to the program. Bring along a jacket or sweater that can be removed. Meeting room temperatures are very often too hot or cold.
  • Study advance materials provided by the program sponsor. Complete any 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. Rule out 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 are about to receive. Treat your learning experience like a mini-vacation and be willing to encounter the unexpected.
  • Bring a supply of your business cards and keep them handy.

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 will be able to see and hear what’s going on.
  • Listen actively and well, both to absorb and understand the information and to evaluate the subjects and speakers.
  • Be responsible for what happens in the classroom. Do you realize, for instance, that you can help the leader do a better job? By nodding, smiling, responding, and speaking up with enthusiasm, you can encourage or discourage the person leading the seminar. Student communication is strong in a classroom and good teachers are paying attention to the signals their students use. If you frown or appear indifferent, you may have a negative impact on the person leading the course. By supporting the teacher, you will 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 to yourself immediately and commit to them. (See How to Take Excellent Program Notes: 10 Tips for additional note-taking tips.)
  • Discuss seminar topics with other participants during the breaks and meals.

Tip: Eat sensible meals and avoid alcohol during the program. Heavy meals and drinking may make you sluggish.

After the Program:

  • Buy recordings, if available, of those programs you enjoyed and those you missed. Share these later with your colleagues.
  • Review your notes once as soon as possible after the class. Make a note of any missing parts, areas of confusion, etc., that you’ll need to pursue.
  • Report on the continuing education program to your co-workers who didn’t attend.
  • Read support materials suggested or provided at the program.
  • Review your notes and reorganize them. Keep these, with handouts, in a convenient order and location for future use. Use a ring binder or folder for each program you attend and label by title and date.
  • Keep handy the speaker’s name and address so you can ask questions by phone, mail, or email as they occur to you.
  • Establish specific goals that result from the educational program and put them on your calendar. Commit to doing what you say you will do. Share these goals with your supervisor or coach, if appropriate, and ask that they be considered in your next performance evaluation.


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