We get it. Getting out of the office to attend a networking, training event or conference can often be hard to do.
It’s not that you don’t want an opportunity to refresh your skills, brush up on trends in the industry, or connect with peers and experts on challenges and successes in your business. It’s just that you already have 50 unopened emails in your inbox—and it’s not even noon.
A two-inch stack of phone messages to return and a week’s worth of plans to review before the client meetings you have scheduled for next week. And don’t forget about the report you need to prepare before the board meeting you have to get to by 5:30—just as rush hour traffic is at its heaviest. Let’s face it: your day is packed.
Sometimes, though, hitting the pause button and picking up your head to see beyond the day-to-day operations of your business, reflect on your processes, and look ahead to improvements you can make for your future, injects the energy you need to continue to move your business—and your clients—forward. Events can be a great way to do that.
Of course, you need to make sure you get the most of out of any event you attend. So we’ve put together a list to help you maximize your time, stay focused, and prepare to return with new ideas and the momentum needed to put them to work.
1. Choose events wisely.
This starts with making sure the event you plan to attend will provide opportunities to expand your knowledge of the industry and the applications you rely on most, and generate actionable ideas that you can implement when you’re back in the office. Think critically about what you want to accomplish by attending. If given the option, build your agenda so that it will expose you a wide variety of topics and sessions that will add the most value in your business. And register early so that you have your pick of the sessions you want to attend.
2. Network, network, network.
People attend conferences with the goal of learning new things. But you don’t have to learn exclusively from speakers—often, you can learn just as much from your fellow conference attendees. Make sure to shake hands, make introductions, and share business cards. You’ll be surrounded by like-minded, driven professionals from the financial services industry who have ideas and insights you can take back to your own business. And don’t forget to keep in touch! Making connections with peers will serve you well long after the conference ends.
3. Keep your team in mind.
Speaking of taking ideas and insights back to your business, keep your team in mind while attending. Take detailed notes, gather helpful materials, and attend sessions that will provide the greatest value to your business as a whole. When you return, you’ll have a wealth of knowledge to share with your team, which will help them be more successful in their own roles. Or, if you really can’t spare the time out of the office yourself, consider sending a trusted member of your team in your place. Ask them to do the same in terms of bringing back insight for the rest of your staff.
4. Ask questions.
That old adage about there being no stupid questions? It’s true. If you want clarification on a point or if you’d like to hear a speaker’s insight into another related topic, don’t be afraid to raise your hand or participate in discussion once the presentation is finished. Most speakers appreciate an engaged audience and will have no problem giving you the answers you need. Besides, what’s most important is making sure you walk out of the room a little smarter than when you walked in. If you’re not able to get your question answered during the presentation, introduce yourself at the end and keep your eyes open for follow-up communications from the event organizers, which usually includes slides and contact information for each presenter.
5. Leave your comfort zone.
You didn’t sign up for the conference just to hear things you already know—you want to learn and grow as an advisor. Be sure to attend breakout sessions and events that focus on a wide range of topics; sit with someone you haven’t already met at every meal; spend time learning about new tools and resources offered; regularly scan conference hashtags and social media channels for news and alerts; and take advantage of value added opportunities, like cocktail receptions, dine-around dinners, and cohorts. You’ll learn far more in the process and create a larger network of resources to potentially tap into at some point in the future.