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You Say You Want a Revolution? Using What You Learn at Conferences to Improve Results Quicker

Published April 11, 2017

This week I am attending the Restaurant Leadership Conference in Scottsdale, AZ and it’s been a great time of learning and sharing great ideas. It is always great to hear from visionary thinkers and leaders who have accomplished a great deal in the brands and businesses. It is also great to get an update on the state of the restaurant industry as well as the trends that are developing that all leaders need to be aware of so that they can capitalize on them as needed. Technomic did a great job of giving an executive summary on the state of the union for the restaurant industry.

As I have been digesting everything I have heard this week it got me thinking about conferences like this where large groups of leaders get together to hear inspiring stories, actionable information, and a lot of data. What happens when we get home? What happens when we meet with our teams next week following a conference? Do we take the time to unpack everything we heard, dissect all of our notes, and begin to share the information with our teams? If not then that is a huge gaping hole in being able to use the information to make our organizations more successful.

We come out of conferences so inspired and ready to change the world! We are ready to change our world. We believe we can start a revolution in our respective businesses, companies, departments, or teams. Then we come down from the mountaintop and very quickly real life intrudes. Real problems are back on our plate. The emails we didn’t get to this week are waiting for us when we get back to the office. The tasks we flagged are overdue and showing up in red on the task list. We see the blinking light in the corner of our eye.

What can we do as leaders to ensure that all of the information we learn at conferences and seminars doesn’t get lost in the busyness of the business? How do we maximize the investment we made in ourselves, or our companies made in us? And most importantly how can we actually improve our results from attending a conference where we learn so much?

Here are 5 things I learned to do that helped me capitalize on the investment of attending a leadership development conference:

  1. Several years ago I started attending Leadercast in Atlanta and it was an amazing experience. But after the first couple of years I realized I wasn’t implementing most of what I had learned about and that was frustrating for me. So I began to build in a day on the end of the trip to digest all of the information, organize my notes, take more notes, and begin to share the learnings slowly. Taking that extra day on the end of a trip was one of the most powerful things I have done for my own development. I was able to isolate key ideas and principles to identify what I knew I needed. Let’s face it, we all get so much information at conferences that it can be overwhelming and not everything is always applicable. You need a discerning eye to ensure that you are focused on the right things for where you want to see your business going in the next year. And that takes time. If you jump right back into the work week without taking the time to process your learnings you are cheating yourself and your team.
  2. After getting my thoughts organized I write an executive summary for myself. This is something I may or may not share with anyone else in its current form. It’s for me. Creating this document gives me a narrative, or a road map if you will, of everything I heard during the conference and allows me to further process the ideas. When you write it down, something magical happens. It goes from being theory to practical application as you consider how the information applies to you and your situation.
  3. After the first year or two of attending conferences regularly, I took someone with me to conferences whenever possible. It is always great to have someone alongside you to share the learnings with in real-time and it also helps the distilling process in getting all of the information down and being able to take action quicker. It also helps to keep them with you on the day you are taking to process all of the information, so if you can do that I highly recommend doing so. Talking about ideas and concepts without the pressure of getting to the next session or getting on the plane can be very empowering and open the floodgates of applying the learnings.
  4. Upon returning home I always met with my team in the first few days following the conference, and then I learned to schedule that time before I ever left for the conference. Having the team in one room as I shared the information with them and watch them think of ways we could apply it to our organization was so inspiring to me as a leader. The more excited they got, the more excited that I got and they were able to add texture and nuance to the ideas I brought up that I would have never come up with on my own.
  5. As I began to apply what I learned I wanted to share the information with other people beyond my team, so I started a blog. It’s gone through various iterations over the years but it has always served as a forum with which I can share what I have learned and pay it forward. As I have shared in other posts, the act of writing it down is a clarifying force in ensuring that I am being crystal clear in what I am communicating. When I am writing a blog post highlighting learnings from a book or a conference, oftentimes I find myself learning something new and finding different applications of what I am writing about to my life. And you are helping other leaders get better and that makes you a better leader.

If we as leaders can harness more of the great information we receive at the various conferences we attend, and make it work for us and through us, we just might start that revolution we want to see in our businesses and in our lives.
Keep leading and keep learning!