Photo courtesy Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

This post is part two in my series on making the most of your virtual conference experience in 2020. If you haven’t already, I’d love for you to read part one here.

Once you close your laptop, the second part of your conference experience begins. It’s time to reflect on what you’ve learned, share with your co-workers and, most importantly, figure out how to put these new ideas into practice at your library.

Here’s a framework you can follow to maximize the value of your virtual conference experience with three important post-conference steps.

Reflect on what you’ve learned

After a virtual conference, you might be tempted to switch your brain off the minute you close your computer. But try to resist the urge to unplug right away. Instead, commit to capturing the insights you’ve learned while they are fresh in your mind.

I usually spend a half hour to an hour at the end of a conference day organizing my thoughts. At an in-person conference, I would return to my hotel, grab an adult beverage from the bar, and head to my room to organize my notes. At home, I schedule “buffer time” into my work calendar to complete this step. Reviewing your notes in detail while they are still fresh in your mind will help you retain the information.

First, copy important names, insights, and ideas into a collaboration tool like Evernote, Trello, a Google doc, or your library’s shared documents drive. Fill in details you may have scribbled down in haste. If you took screenshots, organize them so you can easily identify the presenter and session later.

If the virtual conference organizers are making videos available after the conference ends, go back to the sessions you watched to copy and paste the URLs into your notes. That way, if you want to re-watch them again, you’ll save yourself the time hunting for the right video!

Next, formalize any connections you made with other attendees. Look them up on Twitter and LinkedIn and follow them or send them a connection invite. Include a personalized message so they understand why you are reaching out.

If there were speakers or sessions that really inspired you, send a thank you email to the presenter. As a speaker, I can tell you I really appreciate hearing from attendees, especially when a session inspires them.

Finally, be sure to fill out any post-conference survey. Conference organizers and speakers truly appreciate the feedback.

Share what you’ve learned

At the very least, you’ll want to share what you’ve learned with your boss and your team. But more than likely, your conference learnings contain lessons that everyone at your library could benefit from. So, turn your notes into a short presentation and invite co-workers to watch. My husband does this as a “lunch and learn” for his co-workers.

If you aren’t comfortable doing a “live” presentation, you can record yourself on Zoom, Teams, or WebEx, and share the video (like you do with virtual story times!). Loom is also a great option for recording yourself.

During your presentation, share the top-line things you learned at each session you attended. Tie your findings to your library’s overall strategy. This will help prove the value of your conference attendance to your supervisors. It will also lay the groundwork for when you put your new ideas into practice.

After your presentation, make sure your co-workers have access to the notes you took at the conference using the collaboration tool in step one. Include links to any slideshows, handouts, or screenshots you have.

Put big ideas to work

Here’s where you find the true nuggets that will help your library. I suggest you look through your notes again and organize a new list of action items in categories that correspond with your work.

Tools and technology: List any digital trends and industry advances that your library should act on.

For instance, at the Library Advocacy and Funding Conference, I learned about new software platforms which allow libraries to gather and use data related to their community. I also learned new information about how to increase organic reach on Facebook and Instagram.

If you learn about a new social media platform or about a product that helps you to do a better job at promoting your library, list those in this section. Include the reasons why an upgrade or a change in tools and technology will help your library. Research cost and timetables for implementation.

Content inspiration: List any new creative concepts or topics you think your cardholders would respond to. If you attended a session from someone who shared practical ideas for what to put in your library’s newsletters or how to design print pieces, list those ideas. Then, pull out your editorial calendar and start scheduling!

Productivity and project management: List anything you learned that will help you and your library co-workers to do your job more efficiently.

Maybe you had a Twitter exchange with a fellow attendee whose library has an approval process you wish to imitate. Or maybe you attended a demonstration of a platform like Trello or Asana.

If you learn about new ways to address existing challenges, optimize workflow, or streamline your promotional methods, put those on your list. Your co-workers and supervisors will appreciate any new insight on how to improve efficiency at your library.

Have you changed the way you work at your library because of something you learned at a conference? I’d love to hear about it. Let me know in the comments.

You might also find these posts helpful

Six Tips to Make the Most of Your Online Experience During Virtual Conference Season

Three Transformative Tips to Improve Focus and Re-Energize You When Working in the Library Doesn’t Feel Fun Anymore

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