Evaluating experiences

While traveling home from a leadership conference, I was asked, “What is your system to review and recap a conference?”

This is an astute question from a fellow conference attendee who knows the benefit of attending this up-leveling event and the value of evaluated experiences. I have a system. However, let’s start with my process during the conference.

I appreciate the old-fashioned notebook and pen to capture my thoughts and notes while I learn. In the past, I have typed my ideas into my computer. However, technology is bulky to travel with, and it is moody inside conference centers. Wi-Fi and outlets to charge the battery aren’t always easily accessible.

At this particular conference, we were given a conference workbook with plenty of blank pages to fill. I had another notebook handy where I logged random ideas unrelated to the conference sessions. I prefer this second notebook so my time-sensitive thoughts do not get lost and forgotten among the conference content. With this approach, all I need to remember to pack is a pen (or two) and two notebooks.

John Maxwell teaches that “experience is not the best teacher; evaluated experience is.” Attending a conference, networking with like-minded learners and meeting speakers and authors that challenge you to grow is the experience. All of that will quickly be lost if we do not take the time to evaluate the stimulating opportunity. This is where my three-step after-conference review system begins.

Type my notes into my computer

I use Microsoft OneNote as my note-capturing application. OneNote’s ability to quickly find any content added to the electronic notebook is stellar above any other tool. This process of retyping my notes into my computer also allows me to throw away my handwritten notes to avoid clutter in my office.

Add ideas to relevant projects

While I type my notes into the app, I link related content to current projects. For example, one speaker shared a quote by Maxwell, “The first time you say something, it’s heard. The second time, it’s recognized and the third time it’s learned.”

I added this quote to a “New Leader” class I am teaching next week. It explains well why our ideas are not always embraced the first time we share them. Sometimes people need to hear things more than once to entertain the proposal.

Create a task list

As I organize my notes, my brain thinks creatively about what I learned and how I can use the information to bring value to my clients.

I have an entirely separate page in OneNote dedicated to these creative ideas and tasks. I will randomly toggle to this page to add assignments, like:

• Call the client about the new product released in October.

• Add “personal development time” to my daily calendar.

• Review the latest resources on the Mentorship tab of the online platform.

• Once this process is complete, I print my task list and begin working through the ideas.

Maxwell has also said, “learning to pause allows growth to catch up to you.” This is precisely what “evaluated experience” is.

Attending conferences and seminars can be like drinking from a firehose. It is too much to take in at one time. By intentionally scheduling time to recap a learning event, I bring more value to my initial investment.

You don’t have to attend a big event to take advantage of this system. Follow these steps after any meeting that you lead or attend. Take advantage of this great teacher who is knocking on your door by evaluating today’s experiences.