Making the Most of Professional Conferences

By Sharon Fleshman

This is the season in which many of my colleagues and I go to conferences for professional development. To that end, I have some quick thoughts on how to be more intentional before, during and after these events.

Join the planning committee. Perhaps you have ideas for a theme or can assist with logistics. If so, your role in planning a conference would allow you to utilize your skills in new ways and collaborate with others outside of your workplace, resulting in a stronger network and broader exposure.

Present on a topic. If you are developing an area of expertise acknowledged by your colleagues, faculty, or classmates, chances are that you can propose to facilitate a workshop or present a paper. If others have knowledge that would enhance the presentation, invite them to co-present.

Share best practices. During a conference that I attended recently, there was time allotted for some who presented on initiatives or efforts that were successful in their contexts.  Sharing best practices can also happen informally in between workshops or over a meal.  Forums such as email lists or LinkedIn groups can be used to extend the exchange of ideas beyond the conference.

Identify next steps. After a conference, it is tempting to take your notes and handouts and file them somewhere with the best of intentions of pulling them out later.  Instead, be sure to debrief and strategize with your colleagues shortly after the conference.  Finally, determine two or three action items that can be implemented based on your primary takeaways from the event.

Author: Sharon

Sharon Fleshman is the Senior Associate Director of Career Services for students in Education, Nursing and Social Policy & Practice.