5 Ways to Get More Out of Attending Conferences

Emma Weber

For those of us in any industry lucky enough to experience top notch conference events – although the networking may be great, we must remember that they will only become a useful learning experience when we can apply what we have learnt back into real life.

You can create real impact from your conference by maximising the learning fully. Experiment with the following 5 things…

1) Capture the learning while you’re in the zone

This might sound obvious but keep track of your learning as you go. If there is not enough time then pencil in 30 minutes at the end of the day to jot down your key learnings. Don’t wait until you’re back in the workplace and the conference is just a blip in the rear view mirror! Make notes, audios or doodles – whatever works for you. Summarise key points so you can re-visit with ease.

2) Create an action plan 

Put pen to paper and commit to what you are going to do. Do it immediately, whilst you are still inspired by what you are learning, before you leave the conference venue, or at the very least duck into a coffee shop on the way home or make it priority at the airport lounge before you get stuck into emails. Don’t convince yourself you will come back to it – you probably won’t! Download our example action plan to help start you off.

3) Stick to a timeline 

Break your action plan into bite size chunks using a timeline spread over the next 1-3 months. Start with what needs to happen immediately before you can go any further with the project. Any longer than 3 months, and you may find it challenging to keep the momentum going.

4) Be realistic

Don’t put anything in the plan you won’t do. If you’re really not into it at the time you are doing your action plan, or it’s something that you think you should do rather than want to do, then don’t put it in the plan. Your ability to transfer your learning from the conference will be so much higher when you want to do it.

5) Find an accountability ‘buddy’ 

When I speak at conferences these days I distribute Turning Learning into Action postcards, which are essentially bite-sized learning transfer focused action plans. I ask everyone in the audience to complete their action plan postcard and then pair up with their neighbour, and hold each other accountable to following through on their action/s. Your buddy could also be a colleague, friend or mentor. An accountability buddy helps hold you accountable to what you want to do. They don’t nag you or tell you what to do, but they have a copy of your plan too. You can agree upfront how often you are going to review the plan with them to discuss progress. Their role is to listen, so pick someone you think can listen.

February has been a busy conference month for Learning, Development and HR. I was lucky enough to head to the UK for the Learning Technologies Conference and also to Mumbai for the World Training & Development Congress. There were also a number of highly anticipated conferences on home turf in Australia including iDesignX and Learning Café’s Unconference. I have been sure to capture and keep track of my conference learning this month. For more L&D and HR events on the horizon check out The Top Learning & HR Conferences to Attend in 2017.

Enjoy turning your conference learning into action!


Emma Weber

Emma Weber is a recognized authority on the transfer of learning. As CEO of Lever – Transfer of Learning, she has helped companies such as Telstra, Oracle and BMW deliver and measure tangible business results from learning. Emma has also been a guest speaker at learning effectiveness conferences worldwide and authored the hugely successful book Turning Learning into Action. Much more detail around the issues and solutions examined in this article are available in the book – please feel free to download a free chapter.