Originally posted by Tiana Antul:
So you’re back from the 2015 MACA conference. No doubt you learned some valuable skills, had fun, and returned to work refreshed and inspired… that little nerd spark deep inside rekindled by a presentation you saw or an idea that was born of a late night conversation in the hospitality suite. Coffee in hand you settle back into that oh-so cozy office chair and gear up for a week of catching up on all your work and putting a dent in that inbox that filled up with 48,926 emails.
It’s tempting. I know, I know. “But I was gone for a week and I have so many reports to read through and so much coding to do”, you say. “I need to respond to these emails asap”, you protest. It seems we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to get caught up. But trust me here. If you jump right back into it, you might quickly snuff out that spark you found at the conference, and there’s also a good chance that a year from now you might find yourself dusting off that notepad filled with inspiring conference notes that you never put to use, and what's worse, now you don’t even remember what half of them were about. Please, don’t let that happen. Instead, act on that inspiration while it’s still dancing inside, and check out my 6 step post-conference guide.
Show your gratitude! Show your gratitude to your employer. Even if you went to the conference on your own dime, your employer still allowed you to go. There was work that didn’t get done. There were requests that came in that didn’t get addressed right away. And if it’s anything like my agency, there were a few copy machines that didn’t get unjammed, a coffee maker that didn't get cleaned and there's an official somewhere in the building still trying to figure out how to expand a collumn in Excel (we sure do wear lots of hats, don’t we?). So take the time to send a thank you email and/or to say thank you in person to those in your chain of command who made the conference a possibility for you. Employers love a show of gratitude. It’s also a great way to underscore the benefits of sending you to future trainings and to plant the seed for next year’s conference (“Hey, look what I learned how to do! I’m going to start working on this for our next [insert your agency’s Compstat meeting title here].”). And let’s be honest- above all else, saying thank you is simply the kind and decent thing to do.
Share what you learned. Chances are your department didn’t send a team of analysts, police and command staff to MACA. Nope. They sent you. The onus is on you to come back and share what you learned with your colleagues, or if you’re a “Unit of one”, demonstrate what you’ve learned to your boss(es). Don't tell them about all the great stuff you learned. Show them. There are so many benefits of this not only to you personally and professionally, but also to your agency and ultimately to your community. So talk it up and start putting it all into action.
Contact speakers. Was there a session you particularly liked and you want to personally reach out to the speaker? Do you have some lingering questions about a topic? Or maybe you’re back to work and find that you’re running into some road blocks as you try to implement something you learned. Remember that handy contact list you were given on your first day when you came in and completed conference registration? This is what that’s for. Use it.
Create an Action Item List. This one sort of speaks for itself. Look over all your notes and scribbles. Get them organized. Make a list of new things you want to try and hang it up at your desk somewhere where it will stare you in the face and you can’t avoid seeing it. Prioritize them if you’d like. Alphabetize them. Translate them into binary code. Whatever you do, get them on paper in some sort of organized fashion and keep them some place highly visible.
Contact the people you met. A lot of great networking is done at the MACA conference. At sessions, between sessions, at dinner, at Trivia, in the hospitality suite. Drop a line to say, “It was nice to meet you”. Also, did you make promises to send someone some SQL code, a file, to get them someone’s contact information, or to help them get something up and running. Make good on those promises.
Prepare for the future. But next year's conference is a year from now, you say. Yes, 'tis true. But immediately post conference is the perfect time to start preparing for the future. Do you want to attend or possibly even present at next year’s conference? Start planning now. Do you want to get CLEA certified? Attending the conference gained you a point towards being eligible to sit for the exam. Assess whether you have enough points to sit for the exam. Are you already CLEA certified? Start a document that includes your conference-related activities that might count towards your recertification. And of course, keep the conference momentum going with MACA’s monthly training meetings. Whether it's at the next monthly meeting or next year's conference, we hope you enjoyed the conference and we hope to see you again soon!