Tame Conference Chaos in 3 Easy Commitments: Correct, Contact, & Connect

I’m writing this blog-post from the plane on my way home from a conference led by Michael Port in Long Beach, California. When I think about why I go to conferences, the first three reasons that come to mind are information, inspiration, and motivation.

Without a regular dose of these productivity amplifying tions, even the brightest of business ventures can get dull around the edges. To keep my levels of brightness high, I make the effort to travel and experience what can only happen when a group of people with similar professional interests gather for a short period of time in the same place with the shared goal of self improvement and commitment to their work.

As soon as I settle in, start greeting the people I know, and meeting the ones I don’t, I realize that another reason—and perhaps the most important–I go to conferences is to be with like-minded individuals in a think tank of sorts. Surrounded by their generous energy, I correct my plans and make new ones.

In the process, at the very least, I make contact with them. At most, I connect in a meaningful way that adds value to their work and mine enriching our experience at the conference, expanding our connections and lengthening our reach.   The whole process is nothing short of amazing. So why then, my friends, do we behave so immaturely in the presence of greatness?

We’ve all experienced some version of the following: The panels march on and come to a close, your head feels about as stuffed as your suitcase, and as you say your goodbyes, you think you can’t handle one more input. You’re in the conference cloud…you know, that place far beyond where you were when you left for the trip.

The fabulousness of the conference cloud, generally speaking, looks something like this: anything and everything you want to accomplish seems probable. It’s all doable and, better yet, it’s outlined in actionable steps replete with dates boldly celebrating the completion of various complicated projects in the margins.

Oh, and that other world, the one you so desperately needed a break from before you left…it seems like a distant and benevolent place. So much so that you’re looking forward to your own return.

But alas, you are returning and wondering how long you’ll see beauty everywhere when you start to question the legitimacy of the entire trip. Remember that old saying, “wherever you go there you are,” it starts to creep into your consciousness when you’re about halfway home, testing the limits of the conference “high,” until you start asking yourself, “What changed?”

You have! You’ve plugged in to your people and recharged. The collective energy of your peers has worked its magic; the impossible is possible the improbable is likely and you…well, you’re just better than you were before. This, my friends, is because—when done well—all conferencing parties agree –albeit subconsciously—to be open to the possibility of change ushered in by the people you’ve chosen to surround yourself with for three or perhaps four days!

Think about it…it’s a huge commitment. We take a big chunk of time out from our work and our families to partake in an alternate reality.   And, then we often don’t take the little bit of extra time and thought to bring 100% of the value back into our lives.

You know how it goes…you’re talking to one of your colleagues about this fascinating project he’s working on which dovetails so nicely with your own when you say, “We should stay in touch. Have you got a card? Great. Awesome. Yes, yes. We’ll keep in touch. Absolutely.” And you stuff that card in your wallet with your receipts from the trip and you never do anything with it again.

This is a colossal waste of value. I urge you to correct this one well-intentioned but sloppy practice. Follow through on your word! You need to unpack your toothbrush before you go to sleep the night you get home don’t you? So, you do it.

Put those cards next to your computer and schedule uninterrupted time on your calendar to follow up. It doesn’t have to be dramatic. It just has to get done. Take thirty minutes the week following your trip to import your contacts and follow up with the people who made the conference worth the investment.

Not sure what to write? Tell them what you took away from meeting them, how their energy made you feel or why you are so looking forward to going ahead and doing what the two of you were talking about doing. This one correction will strengthen your contact.

It will also go a long way toward making your contacts into connections that are valuable to both parties. When you send that note/e-mail/Facebook message guess what? You’ll float to the top of their post-conference people to follow up with/things to do.

And, there’s a good chance, in the midst of whatever that person is so busy doing, they’ll stop, take a moment, think of you, hit reply, and voila you’re in a post conference conversation that’s deepening your relationship and demonstrating that you are a person of integrity (you did what you said you were going to do!)

What’s more, congrats on this part, you’ve taken a bit of that conference cloud home with you to ground level where it will make your day to day business a little more fabulous.   Just like that conference.