Attending THE Performance Improvement Conference : What’s in It for Me?

By Davina Davies, Learning Specialist at Davies Designs

Will you find value in attending ISPI’s annual conference? I’d like to respond with a resounding “Yes!”, but the answer isn’t as simple as yes or no. Like many things in life, you will get out of the conference what you put into it.

This post provides preparation tips to help you get the most out of The Performance Improvement Conference, April 10-12, 2016 in Philadelphia.

Have you ever strategized before a conference? Here are 5 simple steps to get the most out of your conference experience:

  1.     Do your homework.
  2.     Identify 3-5 conference goals.
  3.     Do your homework – again.
  4.     Have an action plan.
  5.     Repeat.

Let’s take a closer look at those steps:

1. Do your homework.

Get informed about the mission and vision of the conference and the host organization. Is there an aspect of the conference that drew you to it? Here are some things to look for:

  •     Target audience: do the job titles listed match your current or desired position?
  •     Session themes: do the session themes interest you?
  •     Keynote speakers: do the keynote speakers represent your interests?

2. Identify 3-5 conference goals.

What are your overall conference goals? As an example, here are my general goals from the 2015 ISPI conference in San Antonio, Texas:

  •     Build my professional network.
  •     Identify key strategies in finding contractual opportunities overseas.
  •     Identify consultancy best practices.

Once you’ve identified your goals – get specific. For example:

By the end of the ISPI conference I would like to build my professional network with three authentic connections.

I define “authentic connection” as a meaningful conversation with another individual. It is meaningful because we both walk away learning something and when our paths cross at the next annual conference we’ll not only recognize each other, we’ll remember what we learned.

Note: Avoid asking conference attendees to be your mentor or help you find a job. These things might happen organically once an authentic connection has been made.

3. Do your homework – again.

Once the session information is released, it’s time to prepare. Let’s look at my second goal: Identify key strategies in finding contractual opportunities overseas.

Sure, I can walk into a conference, skim through the schedule and attend all the sessions that mention a foreign country. I’m much more likely to get my money’s worth, however, if I study the session information beforehand. If there are one or two presenters who really stand out for me, I will take time to do my homework before the conference. Here are some homework ideas:

  • Review the speaker’s LinkedIn profile. Note: I generally won’t send a connection request right away, I save this for once I’ve established a genuine connection!
  • Read some of their published work.
  • Identify a few key questions to ask during their session, or if you happen to meet them informally in an elevator, at the refreshment table, or somewhere else at the conference.

4. Have an action plan.

So the conference is a few short weeks away. You’re attending; you’ve identified 3-5 conference goals, and informed yourself about sessions that align with those goals. Now you need to get down to specifics.

There are a lot of ways to develop an action plan. Here’s a snapshot of a typical conference action plan:

  • Identify the top two sessions you’d like to attend per time slot. Why two? Sometimes it might be difficult to prioritize which one you should attend, and having already chosen the top two makes it easier to make a decision on the spot. It’s also helpful to have a backup if a session is rescheduled or filled to capacity.
  • Is there someone you really want to meet or reconnect with? Keep a list to help you recognize them.
  • Did you create a list of key questions for specific presenters? Be sure the list is easily accessible while at the conference.
  • Is the location interesting? Make plans to do some local sightseeing.
  • Do you know someone who lives in Philadelphia? Make plans to meet up with them while in town.

5. Repeat

I attend ISPI’s annual conference, The Performance Improvement Conference, regularly because the organization is my professional home. Why? Here are my top five reasons for repeat attendance:

  1. As a novice practitioner, I felt welcomed at my first ISPI conference.
  2. It is important for me to be part of a community that values both research and the practice of our discipline.
  3. I enjoy the community of a volunteer organization. Did you know ISPI is run by  less than 4 full-time employees? The employees are amazing individuals, but they can’t do everything. ISPI’s success is dependent on volunteerism. Most members are active volunteers at the local chapter level or at headquarters. This business model generates a unique type of professional community – a community I’m proud to be part of.
  4. ISPI has been essential to my transition from wide-eyed student to savvy business owner.
  5. ISPI offers a space for me to grow professionally; it’s where my knowledge becomes know-how.

Want to learn more about going to Philadelphia April 10-12 to attend The Performance Improvement Conference? Go to ispi.org for more information.

So, you’ve decided that there is value in attending ISPI’s annual conference? Look out additional blog posts about attending THE Performance Improvement Conference including how do you convince your boss to send you to Philadelphia?  

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