May 12, 2015

#education Workshops/Conferences: Always learn something!

I cannot recall just how I came to be given a bit of advice, but it has stuck with me for more than two decades. It is simply this: if your boss (or company or district or whatever) puts up the money to send you to a conference, you had better learn something. And, you had better tell your boss what you learned.

I don't know if that came from my father or a previous supervisor, but I take it with me every time I attend a workshop or a conference. Remember, someone has put up time and money for you to attend this thing. They want to see a return on that investment. They deserve to see the return. Moreover, by sharing your thoughts and knowledge of what you learned, you help them decide whether or not you are worth the investment.

Granted, sometimes it is extremely difficult to find the positive results of a given session or an entire conference, but you should share those experiences as well. I try to find at least one "Ah ha!" in each session I attend. I look for at least one thing I didn't know - or some new/different way of doing something I've been doing for years.

Regardless of the outcome, you should be detailed and candid about your experience. If you're not sure what or how much information your boss wants, ask.

For me, I have taken to keeping my notes here on the blog. It forces me to pay attention in the session and I share it with anyone who wants to how things went. I am very upfront about the good and the bad in any session. If something falls short, others may benefit from reading the post. Invariably, however, I always walk away with something. Often, I look back and reflect on what I wrote. Sometimes, long after the sessions are over, I need to look up a bit of information I had from a session. Sure, sometimes online notes can be a bit messy or disjointed, but that's all part of the experience.

For me, the biggest advantage to keeping notes online? Proof I went to sessions, sure, but even more important: I can show my boss what I attended. My boss has a record of what I did and approximately when I did it (I always TRY to post my notes immediately after the session). It also creates talking points for when I return to the office.

So, when you go to a conference, be sure take notes. Find your "Ah ha!" And, most of all - give your boss a reason to send you to another one.

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