How To Make the Most from Attending a Conference or Workshop | Ashlee Proffitt

I am an enormously vocal proponent of conferences, workshops and retreats. Not only do I strongly believe that continued education is of utmost importance, I also believe that seeking opportunities to be in community and to make lasting friendships with people who can identify with our struggles and joys is invaluable.

I am currently packing my bags for such an opportunity! I will be heading to the Inspired Retreat in just a few days and although I am a speaker (so fun!!!) I have so much to learn and so many new friendships to make. I cannot wait!

The challenge for many of us is this at although we save and invest, anticipate and value the experience, we can easily be too overwhelmed to make the most of our time while attending a conference or a workshop. I have listed here a few helpful tips that allow me to fully engage and make the most of my time and investment in these experiences.

  1. Finish Your Work. Make a list of the most pressing work related tasks and do your best to complete those tasks a few days before you leave. As a type a, driven woman, the tendency can be to try and tackle the world before leaving for a trip. Instead of trying to finish every major project you have ever started, plan to tackle only the most pressing and important projects.
  2. To Do List. Make a to-do list for your first work day back in the office. It can be hard to get back in work rhythm and even remember where you left off with each client so making a list while you are still fully dialed in to the projects will ensure that you don’t skip a beat when you get back to work. This simple action also allows you to not feel the pressure to complete every little project before leaving because you have given it space in your calendar to actually complete.
  3. Communicate to Clients. Let all your current clients know that you will be out of the office, where you will be and for how long. Let them know ahead of time that communication will be minimal, if at all. Make sure to include the most immediate tasks that will be addressed once you are back in the office, this assures your client that you are on top of their project and that they are valued by you.
  4.  Auto Responder.  This is the single most important action you can do while you will be away from the office. Having an auto-responder active will let everyone who contacts you know where you are (obtaining education in craft, etc.)  and set the expectation about when you will return their email. This small action gives you the freedom to not even open email while away. And we all know how amazing that freedom can feel. Embrace and enjoy your time away. Don’t spend it in email or worrying about the fact that you aren’t able to check it.
  5. Home + Family Responsibilities.  My primary responsibility is my family. I have 3 children and a husband who look to me for lots of things. In my preparation to leave there are a few things I do my very best to take care of beforehand so that while I am away I am not endlessly worrying (and they are having the optimal amount of stress-free fun.)
    1. Meal Plan – I create a simple meal plan and go over it with my husband. If I am super ambitious I may even prep a few of the meals for him. Not super likely but a great idea. 😉
    2.  Stock the Fridge – A meal plan is worthless if husband has to take 3 kids to the grocery store. Even I hate that.
    3. Schedule – If necessary (i.e. mama does most of the taxiing) write out a schedule for the days you will be gone. Where everyone needs to be and when.
    4. Need To Know – Make a note of anything you do that maybe sweet husband or a sitter does not know or anything out of the ordinary that is happening while you are gone (school projects or special appointments)
    5. Special Letters + Presents – This may seem silly but I write each little (and husband) a little love note and leave it for them to see after I have gone. I just want them to know that I love them more than even this great opportunity and that even though I am really excited about it, I am thinking about them the most. I sometimes throw in a special treat for them too. A new small toy or a gift card for their favorite fro yo place to enjoy while I’m gone.
  6. Attendees.  Try your best to get to know who else will be attending the workshop. Use social media to your advantage and ask who will be going. Some conferences and workshops create a facebook group where the other attendees will introduce themselves. Read the introductions and ‘get to know them.’ This simple action gives you a headstart to making those meaningful connections.
  7. Speakers. Who are the speakers? What are they speaking about? Can you think of specific questions you would like to ask them? This is a great opportunity to hear candid answers to your questions, so come ready to pick their brains!

I hope gives you a tangible way to make the most of your next workshop/conference experience!