I just attended a geeky conference on search engine strategies in New York. I met a lot of good people, learned a lot from the sessions and got a bunch of swag from the booths. However, my biggest takeaway is the to-do list I drafted after listening to the speakers. If I complete just half of my action items, it should more than pay for the costs of conference (the conference fees, the time away from work, the travel costs). More importantly, it can have a huge impact on my business.
So to ensure that I get the most bang from my buck, I've put together a list of the top five things I'm going to do to make sure that I execute on what I learned at the conference.
Choose the Top 5 Items
The problem with most people that don't follow through is that they want to do too much. When there is a list of 50 things to do, it gets too overwhelming and nothing gets done. Therefore, just choose five things are you are going to do and commit to it. Be honest with yourself that you are going to be OK with not getting to the rest of the list even though they may seem like great ideas.
Create a Prioritized To-Do List
First I will put my to-do list in Excel. Then I'm going to prioritize the list by adding three more columns with Difficulty of Execution, Time it Takes to Execute and Profitability Impact. I will rate each to do list from 1 to 10 with 10 being most favorable. Then I will create a fourth column named "Total" and sum the points from the three columns. I can then sort by the highest score and I will have a prioritized list. This exercise is fairly easy and should take no more than an hour or so.
Block Time Out on Your Calendar
I have blocked out three different days on my calendar with at least two-hour blocks to review my notes and to-do list and create time to execute on it. As many of you know, the challenge is not to block the time. That's easy. The challenge is to actually do it when the appointment comes up on my calendar.
Live By Your Appointments
When appointments related to your to-do list come up, just do it. I trust many of you don't miss appointments that you schedule with others. Just treat yourself with the same amount of responsibility and respect you have for others when you book an appointment. This is probably the hardest part, but once you learn to live by your calendar, you start being highly effective.
Once you have accomplished your top five things and have executed on them, treat yourself by taking a day off-or better yet, sign up for another conference. You can also choose to attack the next five items on your long list of to-dos, but remember to schedule time for that on your calendar.
The more you learn, the more you earn. If you execute on what you learn from conferences, you won't be hesitant to go to more conferences because more often than not, you will learn things that will have a dramatic impact on your business.
James Wong is the co-founder and CEO of Avidian Technologies, the makers of Prophet, the easy CRM software for Outlook. James is a seasoned entrepreneur and founder of three successful companies, and an active investor and supporter of entrepreneurship.
This story, "Get the Most Out of Conferences" was originally published by PCWorld.