How To Make Change After The Conference

We've all seen and been a part of this: we come back from a workshop, conference, strategic planning session, or other great event excited to make great changes. Great new ideas, lots of energy, and a broader vision have been instilled and you're ready to effect change.

Fast-forward just a few months later: the company has not been affected by those game-changing ideas, and any semblance of the workshop or conference's impact is gone.

The same can be said for many of the books written, mastermind sessions hosted, or webinars attended. All are loaded with great wisdom and sure to move the needle; however, these mediums for change seldom move the needle.

So much money is spent on conferences, travel, bookings, leadership and strategic development sessions, and outside consultants only to see it get wasted because nothing lasting ever came out of those promising sessions. While, yes, some of what is put out there is fluff with no real depth, there is much more great content and resources out there that have true potential to make a difference if the right variables were in play.

So, what happened, and how can lasting impact be made?

First, let's look at some of the reasons why change did not occur:

  • Action plans were not made. Many people fail to plan for what to do after. They just board the plane home and forget what they learned as they focus on what awaits back at work.
  • Upper management saw the conference as an attitude adjustment for the employee. Many times managers send staff to events as a way to train or change the employee, without wanting to change themselves.
  • The workshop was just for show. Some companies have been known to be part of these events just by attending, but fail to show they align with these initiatives.
  • The attendees have a poor attitude about attending. Many individuals look at these events as drudgery, or a mini-vacation from work, without any plan to improve or learn.
  • Leadership is not aligned with any changes from such events. Upper management never intended to change anything and would just rather stay their course of action.
  • The few people who attend aren't allowed much influence in subsequent changes. They come back with great ideas, but are marginalized or squelched by their boss when they arrive and not allowed to implement any changes.
  • Leadership minimized and wrote off what any impact would be. By sticking to their narrow vision and not seeing what new ideas or trends are out there, these types of leaders truncate any major impact these conferences or sessions can make for their company and customers.

If you want the best return for your investment from any book, webinar, conference, or workshop, here is how to effect lasting change:

  • Get as many people attending as possible. Does this cost more? Yes. But getting more people on board increases alignment, builds broader collaboration, and generates more buzz and follow-through to make a major impact.
  • Have a team action plan session. Have the people who attend make an action plan on what was learned no less than a week after the event. If possible, do it within 48 hours while the ideas and energy are still fresh.
  • Set goals and determine that the company will benefit from these ideas. Make a hard goal plan that the organization will see these changes through towards improving operations, customer service, sales, etc. A goal will ensure the company adopts these changes and doesn't forsake them.
  • Set incremental milestones to make sure actions steps are on track. Refer to the conference material after 30, 60, 90 days to ensure the momentum stays on track. Nothing derails planned change like time; keep refreshing the ideas and energy at no more than 30-day periods.
  • Take the key points and find the best application for them in your business culture and model. It's easy to tell yourself that some, or many, ideas won't apply to your business. The best companies find a way to make these work for them and leverage differentiation from them.
  • Go with an attitude of learning and professionalism. Many people who attend these events take them as a big bash and spend far too much time at the bar, instead of finding ways to improve themselves and their company.

At the end of it all, it's up to you as a leader to adopt ideas into lasting change. Don't waste your time and money, that of your company, or the speaker's time, by just attending and doing nothing to improve your company or your customer's experience.

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