How to get the most out of conferences and workshops

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Whether you’re employed or self-employed, continued learning and development should sit high on your priority list. Your employer is likely to have a dedicated budget for training or if you’re self-employed consider setting yourself one for the year and prioritise what you’d like to learn about and attend.

Training comes in many forms – from reading a book or a blog to attending a conference, and from jumping on a webinar to participating in a workshop.

Five benefits of training for you and your employer

  • Discover new passions – Find things you are interested in that you might have never known existed.
  • Meet new people – Training events are a really good place to make contacts and meet like-minded people
  • Future-proof yourself and the business – Keep up to speed with the latest developments and changes in your industry
  • Increased employment and promotion opportunities – Demonstrating that you’re proactive about growing your knowledge will only be beneficial to your job prospects.
  • Higher levels of employee motivation and retention-  Time away from your desk in a different environment will help spark new ideas.

How to choose a conference or workshop

Before you start searching for an event, ask yourself what your objective for the training is and what outcomes you’re expecting, then do your research. It can be hard to anticipate exactly what you’ll take away from an event so find out about the trainer/speakers and their experience and what talks and activities that they have planned. Do the event organisers have a good reputation or accreditation and will you come out with a certificate or qualification at the end?

Are there reviews online of previous events or can you talk to anyone who has been before? All of these things will help you get to grips with if this will be the right training for you and if you think it will be worth the time and cost.

How to make the most out of your training

Get a good night’s sleep the night before as it’s likely to be a full on day for the body and brain. If you need to travel to get to your event then plan your transport well in advance to get cheaper rates and work out how long it will take you and if an overnight stay might be a good option.

Consider putting a shout out on social media (particularly on Twitter and LinkedIn) to connect with other people who might be attending and who you can meet up with as an added networking opportunity. Stephen Cain from the Copy Effect has this advice for making the most of conferences,

“Talk to people and ask questions, lots of questions. Everyone is there to learn, regardless of their level of expertise and experience. Engage and make friends – meeting new people can be one of the most valuable parts of any event.”

Any questions that you forget to ask on the day can be sent through to the organiser or speaker afterwards.

“Getting the contact details of the organiser or speaker means that you can get in touch with follow up questions or observations, which can take the pressure off on the day,” says Laura Wells from No. 16 PR.

Whether the training is online or in person, make a commitment to concentrate or you’ll never know what you might miss. Put your out of office on and get your notepad out. There is no point in looking half at your phone and half at the training and not getting much out of either.

Share your knowledge

After your event consider how you can share what you’ve learnt with your colleagues and other connections. You could be generous with your new found knowledge in the following ways:

  • Live tweet key takeaways from the training from your personal or company Twitter account using the event hashtag and @mentioning the relevant speakers.
  • Write a blog post about what you got out of the conference or an article for your company newsletter.
  • Do a short presentation on what you learnt – this could form part of a team meeting.
  • Write up your notes in a shared drive.

Partaking in any of these will also be a great way to reinforce the training for yourself and to demonstrate your new expertise to others.

This year AATs annual conference tickets have just gone on sale and are available here.

Sophie Cross is the Editor of Freelancer Magazine and a freelance writer and marketer at Thoughtfully.

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