Now What? Making the Most of the Post-Conference Period

From the President-Elect

David Rumsey

By the time you read this, the memories of ATA’s 56th Annual Conference in Miami will be fading as fast as the tan line on your shoulder that you developed while sitting outside on the hotel patio. Below are a few tips for making the most of the conference experience once you get back to the office.

Don’t let things pile up. It’s so easy just to dump all the business cards and brochures you collected at the conference into a blank file folder and file it under “LOL” (Look Over Later). Usually, that’s 370 days later, when you dump the file in the recycle bin after returning from the next conference. The key to avoiding having a backlog of brochures is not to procrastinate in the first place. Before you get back into the regular routine at the office, schedule an hour as soon as you get back from the conference to review the material you’ve collected. The memory of why you picked up the brochure in the first place or what the background was of the person who gave you their card will be fresh in your mind. If you wrote a note on their business card or brochure it will be even easier. It won’t take long to create two piles: 1) for immediate follow-up, and 2) for information purposes.

Reach out to someone. When going through the immediate follow-up pile, make sure you do it sooner rather than later. That way the conversation you had with the contact will still be fresh in your mind—and in theirs. This is particularly true if you are reaching out to a new friend or professional colleague with whom you connected at the conference. The conversation can continue from where you left off.

If you’re following up with a project manager from an agency for which you would like to work, your enthusiasm will surely be noted. However, don’t be surprised if you get a rather impersonal reply from the agency’s vendor manager asking you to enter your information in their database, even when you gave them your résumé. Send a quick note to the project manager you spoke with and let them know that you registered in their database and look forward to working with them in the future. It keeps your name fresh.

It’s never too late to get involved. If a contact you made at the conference is from a local chapter or division, one of the best ways to maintain that connection is to get involved. Even if it’s just a few hours a month working on a division newsletter or helping promote a chapter event, seize the momentum from the conference and raise your hand to volunteer. There’s no better time to get involved than the present. We’re a volunteer-driven association, so we rely on the energy and enthusiasm of our members to keep the organization growing.

Apply yourself and new skills. The same applies to all of the new demo CDs and limited-offer discounts you received from various vendors and technology companies. If you wait too long to start exploring your options, the company offer may expire or they may move on to another upgrade, and you won’t be able to take advantage of improvements in efficiency that are out there. If you have multiple offers, rank them and try them out over time. The same applies to any new skills or tips you may have picked up at the conference. Make a list of all the key suggestions from the conference (or review the conference program to jog your memory) and make a point to try out at least one new suggestion for a week or two at a time. Small tips can easily reap big rewards.

Chart a new course. Schedule an appointment with yourself about one month after the conference. Write a list of the tips or technology you thought were ultimately beneficial to you, and think about the areas where you still need to learn more. Review your conference notes and the conference program one more time. Perhaps there was a session or a speaker that you might consider next year. Even better, perhaps you have developed some knowledge that you would like to share with you colleagues. If so, make a note when session proposals are due for ATA’s 57th ATA Annual Conference in San Francisco. We hope to see you again next year!

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