If there’s one thing our YMCAs and JCCs love to do, it’s meet. We attend a LOT of conferences. And I love going to those meetings, because I learn so much about what’s on our customers’ minds, and I pick up lots of ideas about how we can help them accomplish their goals.

I often wonder how much of that conference energy gets transferred into action once back “at the ranch.” Most of us are all too familiar with the following scenario:

You’ve just returned from a conference where you got inspired by passionate keynote speakers and attended several sessions that gave you great ideas.

You drive to work ready to set the world on fire– then you open your email.

Your coworker just phoned in sick, and you’ll be pulling double duty today.

An old problem you thought was resolved rears its ugly head again.

Your manager/boss/board chair has just reduced your budget by 20%, but expects same or better results next year.

The conference binder is on your desk, but now it’s four days later and you haven’t touched it. With all of the resources it took to get to the conference, plus the time away from family and work, it’s a real shame to let the great ideas burning in your heart get smothered out by the dust of the daily grind.

Here are few tips to light the post-conference fire:

1. Put all ideas on the table. If you were fortunate enough to attend with others, have a quick stand-up meeting to highlight the things that really resonated with each of you. This is especially important if you attended different sessions. If you attended alone, spend some time on a whiteboard and write out every idea you have.
2. Get the notes. Can the conference organizers or session leaders provide an “audience friendly” version of their materials (with appropriate notes)? Sometimes these materials will jog your memory, spur new ideas, and contain additional resources. Doing a teach-back to your team of the things you learned can help ideas take root, generate new ones, and really helps spread the knowledge (and the investment.)
3. Bring out the relevance wringer. Evaluate which ideas are really applicable to what you/your team is trying to accomplish. Not all great ideas are worth pursuing if they’re not relevant to your goals, strategy, and mission.
4. Time for the reality check. Are the ideas you’ve got realistic to pull off? What potential barriers might you run into when implementing your new idea, and how can you overcome them? Before you talk yourself out of a really good idea because it’s “not in the budget” or “we don’t have the people to pull that off” consider if taking a different angle could use less resources, and still accomplish your goal. Partnerships, negotiations, volunteers, and creativity can help fewer dollars go a lot further.
5. Rally the team. I find it’s more effective and more fun to assemble a small task force to do the movin’ and shakin’ when there’s something new to implement than to go about it solo. Plus, having a small team helps with buy-in if your idea is a real change from the status quo.

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