Have you ever come home from a conference with a notebook full of notes and great ideas that you’re excited to implement–initiatives that could “transform” your business–but then you never look at that notebook again? I know I have.
Let’s face it: We’re already overwhelmed with information. Then we attend a conference only to get… even more information!
If you’d like some help processing it all, you could try to Google “information overload”… but expect to get back around 9.5 MILLION “hits.” Imagine that — there’s an overload of information about information overload!
Random fact: Did you know that if you were to take a one-minute peek at each of the world’s 180 MILLION live websites, it would take you nearly a MILLENNIUM just to scan the possibilities?
Back to meetings… No wonder, when you ask meeting attendees about the most valuable part of a recently attended conference, most will say… “the networking.”
Networking is great — no doubt about that — but we go to conferences to learn… so how can we not only learn more, but implement more? We’re doing ourselves — and our organizations — a disservice if we invest the time and money to attend a conference, only to come home with a notebook full of ideas that gets buried.
That’s why I asked a man who has made a career of helping some of the world’s smartest people think smarter — John Krubski, a.k.a. “The Catalyst Speaker” — for some advice to help you get more out of the next meeting or conference you attend.
Following is what he wrote:
The real problem is not too much information. It’s not having the right tools to process the information in human terms. Machines manage data. Search engines curate content. Humans do something different.
Humans make sense of information — and we don’t do it as well as we might because making sense of information is not something people do intuitively. It’s not something that just “happens” in our brains. Making sense of information requires some work (fear not, it’s not daunting and not painful), some coaching, and some process.
Remember, this is not about managing or storing information –- it’s about making sense of information. That means you need to walk away from the session with a clear-cut understanding of what you learned and how it is useful/valuable to you right now.
How do you get there? Here are the basics:
1. Take notes sparingly.
Only jot down the things that feel like they have some significance. The more you write down, the less meaningful each entry will be and the more you’ll have to read when you get back home. The less you write down, the more time you will have to consider what is worth writing down and what is stuff you already know. This also makes it possible for you to understand what the speaker MEANS rather than merely what the speaker says. The difference is monumental.
2. Now that you have more THINK time and less WRITE time, keep going back frequently to your notes to see how the next new thing connects with things you’ve already written.
Your goal is not to come away with a verbatim transcript but with INSIGHTS. You have to understand that no human mind is capable of meaningfully embracing an endless stream of disjointed information nuggets. You need to make judgments about what is “important” or “meaningful” or “interesting” as you go along and work at seeing the connections between these limited insights. If you wait to make these judgments at some later date you probably won’t. It is the connections that lead to the “Aha’s!”
3. Your goal needs to be to leave each session with the following framework of reference — so it might be useful to write these questions out in advance as a checkpoint:
a. In the shortest possible statement, what did I learn from the past 45 minutes?
b. What can I do with what I’ve learned?
c. What do I need to do to make something happen from this knowledge?
Granted, these are the bare fundamentals, but their purpose is for you to start getting something from every meeting AS IT UNFOLDS so that, by the end of your time with the speaker, you can assess whether it was time well spent or not and how actionable the information presented was.
Good luck, indeed. I hope Krubski’s advice will serve you well at your next conference.
Are you hiring speakers for your own meeting?
If you’re in position to book speakers for a meeting of your own, put “The Catalyst Speaker” on your agenda and you’ll help your attendees improve their information processing skills on the spot — making a more valuable meeting experience for them, which means higher scores for you. (Right?) Click here to learn more about the program.