How to Maximize the Value of Attending a Conference (In-person or Virtual) to Help Your Child
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I get excited at the prospect of attending a new conference either in person or online. I look at all the speakers and the things they are talking about and think of all the possibilities of some nugget I may learn or ah-ha moment I may have that could help my children. It is hard not to get excited, but when I first started attending conferences (real or virtual) I would be wowed with all the information and then on the way home or the after the online event ended a wave of overwhelm would wash over me. What did it all mean? How do I implement? Where do I go from here?
Eventually, I learned that if I had a plan before attending a conference they were one of the most important tools for learning how to help my child. Today, I will share with you how to maximize the value of attending a conference (in person or virtual) to help your child.
Set objectives and Goals
Our time is precious, so whether you are taking extra time to travel or you are taking hours out of your already time-crunched daily routine to attend an online summit, you need to have a plan. In order to get the most out of the conference, you need to ask yourself why are you attending in the first place?
- To gain knowledge?
- To find resources?
- To meet other parents with similar challenges?
- To figure out what to do next?
There is no right or wrong answer and it may even be a combination of all the above. The important thing is to have a clear reason(s) why.
Once you know why you want to attend it’s time to set out some clear goals around these objectives. Set three clear goals for taking your time to attend the conference. Ideally, the goals should encompass the following:
- Set one in the area of learning
- Set at least one in the area of connecting
- Set one for how/what clarity you are trying to achieve.
Not sure where to start? Here are some examples of goals you can set:
Learning: I want to understand what mitochondrial dysfunction is, signs and symptoms and what are the different courses of treatment…Or…I want to learn more about topic xyz because I'm hearing about it in a Facebook group and I'm not sure if it applies to my child….Or …I want to listen to talks by x number of product developers to see if their product might help my child.
Connecting: I want to meet 5 other parents so I can have someone to speak with and talk out my ideas and challenges or I want to meet 5 other moms that have children with similar challenges and create a Moms support group.
Clarity: Are the treatments/therapies I'm currently using the right ones for my child to help them with their poor muscle tone and endurance?
Speakers: Once you have established your learning goal(s) take a look at the conference schedule and map out what speakers/topic appear to be the most important for you to attend given your goals and objectives. Now, this is the tricky part, you will see other topics that might peak your interest. You don't have to ignore the new and possibly enlightening topics, but revisit your objectives for the conference and even your objectives for your child's current overall treatment and therapy plan. Use those as your guide to determine if you are chasing another “shiny object” or if it potentially fits with your overall objectives.
Vendors: When mapping out your time for learning, especially at an in-person conference – take a look at the list of vendors that will be onsite and choose which ones you want to visit. We all spend a lot on products, tools, and services. In person conferences are a quick way to get a lot of information from the vendors. Be sure to make a list of questions ahead of time to make sure you don't forget to ask the important ones.
Take lots of notes and ask questions: Set up a note taking system. I love Evernote. I use Evernote for recording audio of talks (where allowed) and capturing notes and pictures of the presenters’ slides. I use it for keeping track of the people I met and snap photos of the vendors of interest.
Write/record as much as you can and write down clarifying questions as you go. Most speakers at live events take questions and many virtual events have either live components, a comments section or a Facebook group where you can get these questions answered. This is no time to be shy, jump on in and ask questions, getting the right answer could make all the difference in the world!
Connecting with other parents is key to successfully attending a conference. I say this from experience. Even if you are an introvert like me, you need to put your game face on and meet people. You won’t regret it. One of my first in-person conferences I had a group of Moms “adopt” me, they made it their mission to welcome a new mom into their group every year they attended. I look forward to meeting up with them again this year at that same conference.
Look at the conference schedule, often it will have events designed for you to meet other parents like you. If the conference is online, see if there is a Facebook group and engage with others in that forum. You might just find that one amazing person that understands exactly what you are up against.
If you don't find your people there, join us in the My Child Will Thrive Village Facebook group and we will be your people!
Clarity and implementation
Now that you have learned and met lots of people, I can't stress enough how important it is that you schedule time immediately after the conference or online event to summarize your takeaways. You don't want to end up like me and find notes from a session that you watched online a year before and realize that you could have made important changes to your child's plan sooner.
We are so overwhelmed by everything we must do day in and out to get through our daily routines and help our children that the momentum and knowledge from the event we just attended often gets lost in the daily shuffle. Schedule the time into your calendar even before you attend an event to sort through your notes upon your return and you will be set up for success.
After you have summarized your takeaways now it's time to come up with an action plan. List the following (to discuss with your practitioners):
- Changes you think you should make right away based on what you learned (put references to your notes so you can show your practitioner and also track how you came to that conclusion). It is so important to make changes gradually and make them one at a time while documenting them so you know what is working and what isn't.
- New treatments or therapies that you feel you should investigate further.
- Labs/Tests you think that should be run before making any changes (to be discussed with your practitioner). If your budget allows, testing can help give you an objective benchmark to evaluate changes to protocols.
- Assign due date/timelines and responsibilities to each of these and set up the appropriate follow-up appointments to discuss further with your practitioner team.
If you make the time to create a plan of attack before you attend your next conference you won’t regret it. Make sure to grab your free Conference and Summit Success Checklist which will walk you through all the steps above to ensure your success.