I’m getting ready to attend my first ever BlogHer Conference – #BlogHer15: Experts Among Us from July 16-18. With so much incredible content packed into two days, I’m wondering how I will be able to retain all that I see and hear. Not to mention the insights that will come out of meeting hundreds of experienced and inspiring female bloggers.
To prepare, I looked to the experts (and internet) for some tips. My guess is I’m not alone in this worry. So for all of you preparing to attend #BlogHer15, or perhaps heading to another conference, here is a plan to help you make the most of the experience.
1. Set an intention.
Like anything in life, knowing where you want to go will help you get there. Especially when it comes to experiences like conferences, taking time before to decide what you want to achieve helps you focus on specific actions.
Are you looking to learn something specific? Are you eager to meet a few particular people? Maybe you’re looking to get specific feedback from your conversations.
If you focus on what is most important to you at this event, you have the best chance of succeeding.
In my case, I see BlogHer as an opportunity to get to know bloggers and learn how they are growing their business, so that I can better understand how my team might be able to help. My second priority is to learn blogging tips to improve our own blog.
2. Take notes by hand
I am constantly worried about missing out on something important. As a result, I take notes, a lot of notes. Sometimes I lose myself in my notes and try to capture everything. I’m always tempted to type my notes because I know I can type faster than I write.
But research shows if you want to remember what you hear, handwritten notes are better.
A study detailed in Fast Company demonstrated that students were more likely to remember concepts from a TED Talk when they took longhand notes instead of typed. Taking notes by hand requires processing that doesn’t happen if you’re able to type words verbatim, the researchers noted.
In other words, take notes, but don’t try to capture everything. Write down the ideas that attract your attention and what connections come to your mind as a result.
Some TED attendees have taken this idea a step further by taking visual notes with a mix of words and drawings. One TED alum, and one of my personal heroes, Ford Futurist Sheryl Connelly, has become famous for her colorful illustrated notes during TED conferences.
“The best part of the TED notes for me is not necessary recalling what was said; I value them because they help me remember how I felt when I first heard the message,” she told the website CoolHunting.com.
3. Don’t Take (Too Many) Photos
Of course, you need to take a few photos to feed your social media accounts and complement your written blog posts. But don’t overly rely on photos to help you experience or retain information from an event.
Taking photos actually has an opposite effect when it comes to your memory. A research study published in Psychological Science revealed students were less likely to remember details about something they photographed compared to something they simply witnessed without technology. Like note taking, if you try and capture everything with technology, you’ll miss the cognitive process of translating something from experience to memory.
But capturing specific details with an intention of retention may still work. The same team conducted a follow up study where students focused their camera on one specific element. In this case they actually remembered more about the object, the parts inside and outside of their camera frame.
So pay attention to things you see and hear. If there is a specific thing you must capture, make sure to focus in on that detail before you snap a photo.
4. Know Why You’re Networking
We’re going to be meeting a lot of people at #BlogHer15. I’m excited about that part but a little apprehensive. How to make the best use of my time, have meaningful conversations, and remember all I learn from the people I meet?
First, the experts tell us to go back to our intention. Knowing what you are looking to achieve, take a look at the attendee list before the live event. Make a plan for who you want to meet and think through your conversation starters.
In a white paper about networking at conferences, HubSpot explains social media is a great place to start. Introduce yourself on the conference Facebook page (it looks like a lot of BlogHer attendees are ahead of the game here) and start following attendees on Twitter. You can even organize those you want to meet in your own lists.
When you meet people, have your questions prepared and get ready to listen completely. Try asking for stories instead of answers. Not only will this help start more insightful conversations, they also enable you to more easily find commonality, give meaning to experiences, and trigger visual memories.
When the conversation is over, make sure to make some quick notes about the person and the conversations so you don’t forget. This could be notes on the back of their business card, on your LinkedIn app, or even in a note on your phone.
5. Reflect and Share
After the talks are over, and you’re back home (or in your hotel) with a stack of business cards and a notebook of scribbles and sketches, take time to reflect on the experience. A Harvard Business School study found that you learn best from experiences when you include time for reflection, or “the intentional attempt to synthesize, abstract, and articulate the key lessons taught by experience.”
Thinking back through each speaker session and conversation from the day, write down your key takeaways and make connections to the ideas and emotions they inspired in you. In addition to aiding the memory process, these notes can give you material for future blog ideas, business strategies, and email follow-ups.
You might also try sharing some of these thoughts with the people you met. Daily Worth notes this can be an especially effective strategy for introverts to develop connections if online is easier than in person. You could share these notes in individual emails, on your blog, or in social media using the appropriate hashtags.
I’ll be giving these steps a try and sharing my experience after #BlogHer15. Let me know what works for you to make the most out of BlogHer or other conferences you attend.
If you’ll be in NYC this week, make sure to find me in person and on Twitter @jillybadanes at #BlogHer15!
Director of Marketing @ Viraltag