If you follow me on Twitter, you know I spent most of last week at FinCon (the Financial Blogger Conference for all of my non-blogger readers. Also, if you don't follow me on Twitter, I highly recommend it. We have a good time over there). You may also know that fact because I mentioned it about 3 or 4 times on DMS. And I'm fairly certain you all have the same question–how was it? (Unless you were there and know it was great and in that case, you probably want to know how my liver is feeling. I asked her and she said fine as long as I stay away from red wine for a few days).
In short, FinCon was amazing. But most of you probably don't really care. And that's absolutely fine. Because if this weren't my site and I wasn't a blogger, I wouldn't care either. However, at one point or another, we all experience something like I did at FinCon.
When you attend a conference, workshop, class or any other educational medium, you typically walk away with more information than you can handle. At least I do (if you don't, I am incredibly jealous). I also walk away wanting to implement everything I learned. And I want to do it NOW!!! But that is completely unreasonable and ridiculous and is probably due to the lack of sleep (and aforementioned red wine).
To deal with my overambitiousness, I developed a strategy. I wish it had a cool name but it doesn't so I'll just tell you what I do to manage the massive influx of information that assembles in my brain after a really intense conference:
At conferences where wine and amazing company and educational breakout sessions are aplenty, sleep is in short supply. That lack of sleep can impact the post-conference goals you set. It is essential that you're well rested when you do this otherwise you might decide that perhaps you want to become a biker and then sign up for motorcycle lessons because you think bikers are awesome especially when they look like ZZ Top and then you buy a motorcycle from Craigslist only now you have no where to put it and then you remember that you are terrified of motorcycles and men with long beards. So now you're out money on a motorcycle and maybe a leather jacket and the next 4 Saturdays are booked because you need to attend motorcycle riding classes.
This is not cool. However, if you were well rested, you probably would have just decided to write an ebook or look for a freelance gig. Something simple and more aligned with your actual life goals (unless one of your goals is to become a biker. If that's the case, have at it. No judging here).
Cull business cards
At conferences, business cards are given out more freely than beads on Mardi Gras. And you don't even have to show your boobs to get them. All you have to do is engage in a 5 minute conversation about even the most mundane topics like cookies and you will obtain a card. You wind up returning with a massive collection of cards from people you can't remember. It's overwhelming.
To manage it, sit down with the pile of cards and slowly go through them. Much like they suggest on Hoarders, create 3 piles: keep, toss, I'm not sure. Throw away any cards that you took simply to be polite, are from companies you don't care to have a relationship with, or bloggers with whom you didn't or don't want to forge a connection (don't get mad. It happens. I'm pretty sure my card is in many a landfill). Keep the ones that you know you need. For the “I don't knows”, take some time to browse the website. See if it could be a good fit. File the cards away and set a reminder to go through them again in 2 months. Gauge your interaction with those people and make a determination then.
Make implementation lists
Conferences often leave us with a post-conference high. Included in that is the feeling of empowerment, an incredible belief in our skills and abilities, a desire to enthusiastically pursue our goals, and a burning desire to be next year's success story. On the one hand, this is great. It's good to feel ambitious and confident and ready to take on the world with lack of abandon.
On the other hand, it's a disaster. We try so hard to implement all the ideas, tips and tricks we learned that we end up doing a really crappy job on all of it. Then we get pissed and dejected and all that confidence? Gone. The post-conference high deflates like a bad breast implant. To prevent that from happening, go through your notes and make lists. Figure out what can be implemented immediately, like adding a plugin or signing up for a service or sending a follow up email. Then determine when the other changes will roll out and what's a reasonable schedule for that. Maybe in 3 months you'll have a site redesign, in 6 months you'll have a newsletter and in a year, you'll publish that ebook. Taking your time doesn't mean you gained little at the conference; it means you did learn and you want to do the best you can.
Reread notes at a later date
Whether you take handwritten or electronic notes (I take notes by hand because I am old and I write faster than I type on an iPad), you will leave with a cache of information, including handouts, website lists and other “extras”. When combined with the sessions themselves, there is often so much that my brain cannot handle it all. So, when you return, put it all away. Don't look at it. Let your brain relax and decompress. I do this by watching some of the worst TV I can find. I recommend this but you can do whatever works for you.
By letting the brain take a vacation, much of the conference noise gets cleared. That way, when you reread your notes a few days later, you are more focused and can process them rationally, clearly, and intelligently. They make more sense. Retaining the information is easier, which then makes thenimplementation strategies more effective and logical.
FinCon is probably the best conference I have ever been to, and not just because of free wine, food, friends and the occassional bit of eye candy (yes, boys, we do look at you and talk about you that way). FinCon has helped me improve as a blogger, writer, site owner and member of the personal finance community. My strategy for dealing with what I learn at FinCon has helped me maintain my blogging sanity so the other parts of my sanity (which are dwindling) stick around.
Readers, how do you handle processing post-conference information?