The final key in getting and communicating the value of any conference or event you attend is, of course, in the follow up. Follow up seems like an obvious piece of the puzzle, but because you’ve been out of the office for a couple of days, and there are demands on your time from the moment you land, it’s actually fairly easy for it to slip from the front of your mind to the back burner. 

It’s essential not to let that happen, so that you don’t lose all of the value that you’ve gained from preparation and engaging in the conference. 

As with preparation and engagement, there are a number of different ways to follow up after (and even while you’re still at) an event, culminating with a review for your colleagues and firm decision makers. The reason I suggest that the follow up end with the review is two-fold – one, when you do all of the other follow-up first, all of the conference value will be very fresh in your mind, and you’ll have your key points handy to share with them right away.

And two, implementing this follow up will hopefully have them following along and result in some further engagement, which will help you to demonstrate additional value even more easily during the review meeting. 

So let’s start with a few of those other areas of follow up first.  I should mention that these are all things I’ve learned from experience, and use regularly as part of my own conference attendance. 

Connect with Those You Met

The conference or event presented an opportunity for you to meet and reconnect with a number of people – but the value diminishes significantly if you leave the relationship to stagnate until the next time you attend an event with that person. Instead, get your follow up on: 

  • Reach out on Social Media: This is something you can do before you’ve even left the venue – my friend Heather Morse suggests doing it from the plane if you have wifi. There are a number of opportunities for this: 
    • Let’s say you’re sitting in a session and the speaker is excellent. Hopefully they have their Twitter handle on the slides, and you can easily look them up, follow them, and send a quick message about how much you’re enjoying their presentation. Connect on LinkedIn as well. 
       
    • After the opening reception, you’ve gotten five or six business cards from people you met that evening, and you jotted down notes on each of them from the conversations you had. Send personalized connection requests on LinkedIn before you go to bed that night, referencing your conversations, and making the conversation open-ended to encourage further conversation. 
       
    • Looking through your phone, you find a fun (and appropriate) photo you took with your new friends at the conference. Share it via the tweetstream with the conference hashtag as you’re heading to the airport, and let everyone know how much you enjoyed the experience and making new friends. 
       
    • Perhaps there’s a group of three or four people you’ve become very comfortable with at this conference, and you’ve been sharing stories about your kids, vacations, etc. Take the leap and add them to your Facebook friends. I’ve watched my lawyers do this, and it’s added such depth to their relationships in such a short period of time!  It makes me want to hug them every time I see them engage on Facebook.
       
    • If it’s a small enough conference, go through and add all of the attendees on LinkedIn with a personalized note, even if you didn’t get to connect in person – say something like "I’m sorry that we didn’t get more of a chance to talk at the conference, but I’d really like to get to know you better. Perhaps we can set up a phone call, or meet up at the next event?"  If the conference isn’t small, use this with anyone that you wanted to meet, but weren’t able to get to connect with for one reason or another. 
       
  • Review your list for more follow up: There will always be people at a conference or event with whom you discuss something that you promise to follow up on – maybe you mention an article you read, and you’ve promised to share it with them, or there’s a funny video clip that they just have to see. Whatever it is, this is the time to take care of that follow up.

    I keep a running list of notes on my phone, which I review in the days after a conference. For me, it’s usually things like updating a profile on our website, or adding a person to a specialty group database, but it can include reading a book that someone suggested to me or mentioned that they really enjoyed, or checking out a new television show that we chatted about. 

    Then, I reach out to that person to let them know I’ve either taken care of the thing we discussed, or to share the item with them. This serves two purposes – it lets them know that I was listening when we were talking, and it opens up further dialogue. 
     

  • Get creative: One of my favorite things to do after one of our conferences is to hand write notes to our delegates with printed photos of them from the conference. Sure, we all send and post electronic photos these days, and we do share those with our delegates within a day or two of the conference.

    But I like the idea that our delegates will get a fun or memorable photo of themselves with a friend from the conference and stick it somewhere on their desk, reminding themselves periodically of an enjoyable experience (and to use that friend for referral work when needed). Handwritten notes are so rare these days, that they’re very memorable. 

    Why not do something equally creative? Send someone a box of their favorite chocolates that they mentioned offhand during your conversations. Once, one of my delegates surprised me with a book as we were heading to our final dinner, because we’d been talking about the subject earlier that day. Send something that is uniquely representative of your city or state, with an invitation for a visit. It’s a small gesture, it’s memorable, and it’s unique.

Once you’ve connected with those you met at the conference again, and are working to keep the conversations going, there is still some follow up work to be done. Review the preparation work you did at the beginning to see which of those on your list you met with, and whether you were able to achieve the goals you had in meeting with them.

Put together a list of everyone you met at the conference, and identify the most valuable connections you made (and why they’re valuable for you and the firm). Make note of what follow up you’ve started, and where applicable, business discussions you’ve had. At this point, use whatever calendar system you prefer to set up future follow up with them – in many cases, it will happen organically, and you won’t need the reminders, but in some cases, you’ll need that pop up window that tells you in a month’s time to reach out to John Smith about the conversation you had at the conference.

Review the Sessions

Since I’m a blogger, this is something that I like to do through recap posts – but it’s something I recommend doing whether you ever write things down for someone else to read or not. 

If you’re a blogger (or even want to guest blog for someone else), go through the sessions you’re recapping fairly quickly after the event to keep them fresh in your mind. I’ve shared my tips for using blogging to enhance conferences and events before, so I won’t rehash that here – however you decide to recap the conference or individual sessions, go ahead and get those finished (and shared!). 

Once you’ve done that, or if you’re not a blogger and are skipping to this step, go through each of the sessions and grab your key takeaways from each. Write them down – these are for you. 

LMA is great about this, because they ask their presenters to put together takeaways from each of their sessions, which they tweet out during the presentations. So if you’re struggling to remember something from the conference, check their feed to jog your memory. For other events, you may want to take quick notes for yourself. 

Why bother with this? Well, we always joke at LMA that attending an intensive conference can feel like drinking from a fire hose – it’s a lot of information to take in at one time. Because of that, while you’re going to soak in a lot, it can be hard to filter through all of that easily in the days following the conference for the most salient points, which is what you’ll need to share with those back at the office. 

So if you take some time to get straight in your own mind what the most important points are from each of the sessions that you attended, you’ll be able to see the value right away. Some ideas: 

  • The main theme of this session. 
  • One idea, tip or tool I can implement right away.
  • One idea, tip or tool I can implement in the next six months to a year. 
  • A heads up to what the competition is doing. 
  • A unique perspective on an old idea, or way of thinking. 
  • A great thought leader to reach out to in the future, or to start following on social media. 
  • Something that we’re doing right or well, or an area that we’re clearly on the cutting edge. 

Once you have that list of the valuable points from the sessions that you attended and your list of new and renewed connections and follow up, the next step is the review with your colleagues or decision makers. 

Review with the Office

The way that this review goes will have a lot to do with your position in the firm, your seniority, and the type of work that you do – a junior associate heading to a conference for the first time will have a different feeling of reporting obligation than the managing partner, as will a marketing coordinator. 

Regardless, though, it’s helpful for you to feel responsible to yourself for making your attendance at an event valuable, so going through the above process will accomplish that. The level of detail that you share with your colleagues is where the differences will lie. However, even the most senior partners can benefit from sharing at least an overview with their colleagues of the type of attendees that they met and connected with, the high level discussions that were had, and what opportunities lie ahead for the future. 

If the review process is new for you, you don’t need to overwhelm them with data – it’s nice to have it on hand in case they have questions about a particular session or person, and for your own purposes. But you don’t need to report on every moment. The main purpose of the review is to show that you took the event seriously, achieved the goal of getting value from it in a way that both you and the firm find useful, and that you’ve translated that value into future steps for your position. 

Admittedly, it sounds and seems like a lot of work – but from experience, I can tell you that with a little bit of thought (and preparation!) implementing these things into your conference attendance can reap huge dividends while becoming second nature, and NOT a second job.

Yes, even the recap blogging. 

Happy conference attending! 

 

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Photo of Lindsay Griffiths Lindsay Griffiths

Lindsay Griffiths is the International Lawyers Network’s Executive Director. In this capacity, Ms. Griffiths is responsible for the oversight and management of day-to-day operations of the International Lawyers Network (ILN). She develops strategies and implementation plans to achieve the ILN’s goals, and handles…

Lindsay Griffiths is the International Lawyers Network’s Executive Director. In this capacity, Ms. Griffiths is responsible for the oversight and management of day-to-day operations of the International Lawyers Network (ILN). She develops strategies and implementation plans to achieve the ILN’s goals, and handles recruitment, member retention, and a high level of service to members. She is engaged in the legal industry to stay on top of trends, both in law firms and law firm networks.

In her role as Executive Director, she develops and facilitates relationships among ILN member firm lawyers at 90+ law firms in 67 countries, and seeks opportunities for member firms to build business and relationships, while ensuring member participation in Network events and initiatives. These initiatives include facilitating referrals, the management and execution of the marketing and business development strategy for the Network, which encompasses all communications, push-down efforts, and marketing partnerships, providing support and guidance to the chairs and group leaders for the ILN’s thirteen practice and industry specialty groups, the ILN’s women’s initiative, the ILN’s mentorship program, the management and execution of all ILN conferences, and more.

JD Supra Readers Choice Top Author 2019

During her previous tenure as Director of Global Relationship Management, the ILN has been shortlisted as a Global Law Firm Network of the Year by The Lawyer for 2016 and 2017, and included as a Chambers & Partners Leading Law Firm Network since 2011. She was awarded “Thought Leader of the Year” by the Legal Marketing Association’s New York chapter in 2014 for her substantive contributions to the industry, and was recently included in Clio’s list for “34 People in Legal You Should Follow on Twitter.” She was also chosen for the American Bar Association Journal’s inaugural Web 100‘s Best Law Blogs, where judge Ivy Grey said “This blog is outstanding, thoughtful and useful.” Ms. Griffiths was recently chosen for as a Top Author by JD Supra in their 2019 Readers’ Choice Awards, for the level of engagement and visibility she attained with readers on the topic of marketing & business development. She has been the author of Zen & the Art of Legal Networking since February of 2009.