We attend a lot of professional dog conferences and seminars each year. There are so many ways to benefit: Access to the latest thinking and innovations in the field, networking and socializing with colleagues old and new, inspiration for new or improved services and revenue streams, renewed energy to keep burnout at bay. And in addition to the professional responsibility of keeping ourselves at the top of our game, every workshop is a marketing opportunity for you and your business.
It’s easier than ever to pursue professional development in our field, year round—conferences and expos, seminars and workshops, and web seminars you can attend from your couch, dog in lap. So whether you’ll be among the Fall conference-goers this year (we hope to see you out there!), or are eyeing next year’s events or already enjoying some online learning, here are some tips for making the most of your educational experiences:
Each year set aside a budget and plan your seminar attendance. This gives you time to save up for chosen events and to clear your schedule well ahead of time so you can get away in the first place, and then focus once you’re there.
If it’s an in-person event, build in time afterward, too. Your continuing education efforts will have more value if you anticipate the time you need to catch up once you’re home and to implement the new ideas you’ve brought back with you.
Part of planning ahead is getting your ducks in a row so you can unplug and focus in full learning mode. Avoid having to multitask, whether you’re watching a web seminar in your jammies or sitting in a conference hall. Turn on your out-of-office email reply and record your outgoing phone message to let people know what you’re doing and when you’ll be back. You’ll get so much more from the experience if you’re able to be fully present without having to juggle all of your regular daily business responsibilities. It’ll be more fun, too.
Actively network while you’re there. Sit next to people you don’t know. You can learn a lot from other attendees and you never know when a business or marketing opportunity will present itself—or a new friend is waiting to be made.
Post and tweet.
Unplug from email and turn off incoming calls, but stay connected via social media. Share interesting tidbits from talks, post pics of cool trade show products, and note any new industry thinking or trends you notice. Communicating from the event helps clients understand what you’re up to while you’re away.
Review and implement.
Take thorough notes and review them once you get home. What will you do with what you’ve learned? Do you want to make any changes to your services, your interactions with dogs, how you work with clients or organize your space? If you don’t sit down right away to make and carry out decisions, you’ll likely lose much of what you stood to gain from the effort and cost of your attendance.
Share what you learn.
As part of implementing your learning, share your new expertise with staff or partners. Plan meetings or staff training around the ideas you bring home and the decisions you make about incorporating them.
Share with clients, too. Channel what you learn into blog posts, articles, tip sheets, and newsletter columns. Taking good notes during an event can provide you with months’ worth of good educational and marketing content.
Do some marketing.
Your pursuit of ongoing professional development is a marketing commodity. Add the seminar name and content to your website’s about/bio page and if you have a blog or a news and notes section on your homepage, do a full write up there, sharing where you went, the topic of the seminar, and how it relates to your work and business. Include a picture of yourself at the event if you can. And tell your current and past clients the same through your newsletter or a quarterly email or letter, and how you’ll be using what you learned.
Put out a local press release, too—tips on that here.