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How to Get the Most out of a Business Conference

How to get the most out of a business conference.


A professional business conference is potentially a great learning experience and opportunity to network and make new business contacts. A good conference can both inspire ideas and serve as an impetus for action. On the other hand a poorly planned conference can also be an exercise in tedium with mind numbing, boring speaker after speaker droning on while you sit on uncomfortable seats in an overheated, overcrowded conference room. With a few simple tips though you can make the most out of conferences and actually take something back home to the business which will improve you as a worker and your work place.

Before You Leave

There are a few things you can do before you even leave to make the most of your conference. First let us start with the basics. You should pack clothes which you can wear in layers; conference centers are notorious for having extremes of hot and cold temperatures. The sheer volume of people in the room can make things very uncomfortable by the heat they generate; each person in a room generates the equivalent heat of a one hundred watt light bulb. If you are unable to take a layer off when the time comes you won’t be able to think about anything other than when you can get out of there let alone take anything away from what the speakers are trying to convey to you. You should also be sure to bring some office supplies so that you will be able to take notes and keep them organized, a tape recorder may also be useful for keeping track of more complicated lectures. While taking notes during each lecture try to boil down things to one main point that you can take away. Something that is worthwhile and useful to you that you will be able to use when you get back to the office.

Taking Care of Yourself and Maintaining Balance

It is important to remember that the structure of the conference is not set in stone and there won’t be someone at before each speaker calling off a roll of names taking attendance. You will be able to get more out of the conference if you are healthy, happy and alert then if you dutifully sit through every single speaker, in the processes burning yourself out. The conference may get your adrenaline flowing but be sure to take frequent breaks if you need them and to keep up your regular eating habits. It is tempting to while away from home to over indulge by eating or drinking too much but you will do nothing lying in bed sick in your hotel room. Take advantage of the amenities the hotel will offer such as the pool, spa and exercise room. Don’t forget to set aside a moment to return to your emotional and spiritual center. An afternoon nap is a great way to enjoy late night networking and fellowship with your peers while avoiding feeling tired the next day. While all of this may seem like you are taking a free vacation on the company dime this is by no means what I am suggesting. My point is to make the most of your conference so that you can be at your most effect. Many of your most important contacts and relationships are found in events outside of the official conference such as informal lunches or late night drinks. This type of networking is invaluable and can offer insights that could not be gained else where.

Take Away the Most You Can from the Conference

There is a lot for you to learn at the conference both from the speakers and from your colleagues as you network with them both formally and informally. As you listen to the speakers try to take notes and jot down key points and ideas that you want to take away from the conference. If you can condense the main ideas down into a couple of key concepts it will help you remember and be able to carry out it in your own workplace. Learn from every experience you have and as you network with your fellow conference goers as well, both their successes and mistakes are useful to you. Be sure to write down the lessons and new information you learn so you will be able to remember it later and apply it to your own life. Knowledge though is not the only thing you will take away from a conference you will also collect a lot of business cards, brochures, hand outs and maybe even some books and tapes. You soon will have far more than you can pack in a suit case to take on an airplane. Bring some priority mail envelopes and some postage stamps; you will be able to mail as much as you can fit in them. You can periodically lighten your load by mailing some of these items home and avoid having to check another bag at the airport which can get very expensive.

While a business conference is far from a vacation it is a great experience, where you will be able to network, gain knowledge and further develop business contacts from around the world. Be sure to take the time to process what you have learned to have it translate into improvements in your business when you return home. This is the purpose of conferences and this is how you make the most of your conferences.

Attending a business conference will hopefully increase your client base! Up Next “Tips for Managing Clients and Keeping Your Cool”

Increasing Productivity & Effectiveness: How Parkinson’s Law can Help Your Company

Using Parkinson’s Law to increase productivity in your company.

parkinson's lawFor the worker bees of the world, productivity is king. They work long hours, hoping to show their boss how dedicated they are to their job with the hopes of promotion. Sadly, those who live by the words “work harder, not smarter” are most likely wasting most of those 40 hours a week, when they actually could be getting more work done and still have a good bit of personal time to spare.

The idea is not new. In 1955, noted British author Cyril Northcote Parkinson opened an essay in the Economist with the following words: “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” The essay describes how the British bureaucracy had become bloated because officials favored the appearance that civil servants were working hard over the much more efficient alternative: working smarter, and shorter hours.

When workers in any context are given an ample amount of time to complete a task, Parkinson’s law posits that they will use all of that time to complete the task to look like they are busy. Not only is this a waste of resources, but it also actually creates stress on the worker as the task inevitably becomes more burdensome than necessary because they have drawn it out to fill a large gap of time. Parkinson’s law dispels the notion that just because an employee spends more time working on a task that it must result in a better quality end product.

It is not too difficult to incorporate these principles in your daily life and work routine so you can get more done in less time. It boils down to good time management, and changing the amount of time you think a certain task takes to complete. Start the day with a list of tasks, and for each one write down the amount time you think you need to complete them. Now cut that number in half.

This may cause you some apprehension at first, but give it a try. Most people overestimate the time it takes to complete a task because they are used to stretching the job out to fill an entire workday. Think of it as a game, and the objective is to beat the clock. This will make your work more fun and engaging as well. You may want to get your hands on a digital timer, as it is easier to time your tasks that way versus using a clock.

As you get used to this process, you may need to adjust your times if you find that getting them complete in the allotted time period is just impossible. This is likely if you are already fairly good at estimating the minimum amount of time you need to finish a job. Don’t cut the time down to the point where the quality of your work becomes rushed or shoddy. The idea is to experiment and find the true amount of time it takes to complete a task when you are purely focused on its completion.

The easiest tasks to squash are time-fillers such as checking email or maybe browsing the web for work-related articles. Cut down that 30 minute morning email routine to just five minutes. Then you have time left to get a jump-start on your next task, or perhaps find time to look at a few things that interest you. Everyone needs a little “me” time to get through the day.

As you become adept at reducing the amount of time it takes to get work done, you will find that you have extra time to do with what you want. You could take on more work, squeeze in some personal errands, watch a few videos on-line and still leave early on Friday.

Parkinson’s Law is only part of the battle to Increase Productivity!

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Efficient Meetings: Stop Wasting Time!

Efficient Meetings: Stop Wasting Time!

How many times have you sat through an interminable meeting, wondering why on earth you are there? I have often found myself resorting to counting ceiling tiles with boredom, or planning the week’s grocery shopping in my head. The last meeting I went to was so pointless that I had a great opportunity to think about who I was going to invite to my birthday party. Not all meetings are like this, of course, but the majority are. The annoying thing is, it only takes a few simple time management tips to create efficient meetings– but it seems that most people running meetings don’t know about these. Meetings are an essential part of human existence. When you sit for hours with your accountant going through your tax return you might dispute this! But we humans are social animals. Meetings are not just about business. We might meet with friends to plan a party, or with family to plan an event like a wedding or holiday.

The key word here is plan. Every meeting needs a plan.

Things come in threes: and there are three parts you need to think about when planning a meeting: the preparation, the meeting itself and a recap at the end.

Preparing for your meeting

Whatever the size or scale of your meeting, it will need planning. The three P’s of meeting planning should help:

Purpose: What is your meeting’s aim? You need to have a goal. Don’t just hold a meeting because you always do. If the purpose of your meeting is just to update people, why not send an email instead.

People: Once you know what your meeting is for, you can make sure the right people are attending. Remember – top of anyone’s list of time management tips is the reminder that people’s time costs money. Think for a moment how much an hour of someone’s time costs your company. Will your meeting achieve enough to justify that cost? Are you engaging people at the right level? Managers are busy people who may want to send a deputy to your meeting, but if it is management-level authority that you need, then this might be a waste of time. Use time management tips to help in reducing meeting time.

Papers: All good meetings need to communicate in advance. You should send out a formal agenda – or at least an email with some idea of the meeting’s content and purpose – so that participants come ready to engage with the topic. Good time management tips include sending the papers out in good time (up to 48 hours in advance) and keeping them brief. This gives everyone a chance to read and absorb the topics.

Running the meeting

A good meeting has a limited agenda. This is where your pre-planning comes into play. An hour-long meeting should only have two or three topics for discussion. If you include more, and you risk over-running your time, and over-loading your participants with information.

If you worry about meeting time management, tips to follow include making sure that everyone knows what the agenda is, and then sticking to it during the meeting. If new topics arise, make a note of these for the next meeting.

Someone should take notes of your meeting. A formal meeting may need ‘minuting’ in detail. Even for an informal meeting, it is a good idea to make a note of any actions – who has agreed to do what. If there are more than two or three participants, it is generally not a good idea for the person running the meeting to take the notes at the same time.

Action replay

At the end of every meeting, there needs to be a recap of what has just happened. This helps to focus the participants on what has happened. The person running the meeting should summarise the proceedings of the meeting (very briefly!). It is also a good idea to run through any actions which people have agreed to undertake. After the meeting, send out a quick email with a summary of actions, and formal minutes if required.

This might all seem like a lot of work – but it pays off in the long run. If you everyone is in agreement about the purpose and outcomes of a meeting, it will be more effective, and hopefully shorter. You might even decide that you don’t need a meeting at all. Then you would have more time to plan that birthday party in peace.

While I was planning my party, I came across a new problem – there were many duplicate contacts in my phone’s address book and in my outlook contact list. Fortunately there is software that can help with removing these duplicate contacts – leaving me with more time for party planning, and other fun activities.

Armed with techniques for efficient meetings, Stop Wasting Time!

Additional relevant articles:

Pomodoro Technique and The Results Curve

Increasing your workflow with The Pomodoro Technique and The Results Curve

I’ve planned out my work session and set my timer. Now I have to get to work – the timer is ticking away, so there isn’t a moment to lose! Since I’ve given myself a limited time frame in which to accomplish as much as possible, I want to be as productive during that time as I can. Probably more than any other aspect of The Pomodoro Technique and The Results Curve, methods for maximizing productivity will vary from person to person. However, the creators of these techniques offer a few suggestions for increasing productivity within your work time.

Pomodoro Technique and The Results Curve

Francisco Cirillo, the creator of the Pomodoro Technique, offers a suggestion for structuring each work session to keep you on track. He recommends using the first 3 to 5 minutes of the session to review what you’ve accomplished on the current task so far. This keeps the task fresh in my memory and cements what I’ve already learned. Reviewing what I’ve already done can also help me clarify what steps should be taken next.

Using this structure, I would work on the next steps in my task for 15 to 20 minutes after reviewing my previous accomplishments. Then I use the final 3 to 5 minutes of my work session to review what I’ve accomplished during this work session. Cirillo recommends starting the review at the end of the work session and working back to the beginning. He calls this an “effect-cause procedure”; I determine what I accomplished at the end of the session, then work towards the beginning to determine whether that’s what I actually intended to accomplish. This helps me to evaluate whether my work flow is helping or hindering my productivity, and I can tweak it to accomplish more next time.

In “The Accomplishment Zone” of the Results Curve, Pierre Khawand states that accomplishments occur when we are focused on a task. The resulting suggestion is simple: I must stay focused on a task long enough to get into the “zone” where my productivity increases. Khawand suggests that it takes around 30 minutes to reach this zone, but it’s been my experience that I get there much faster when I’m working on a task that I truly enjoy and find interesting. It might take the entire 30 minutes, or even longer, if it’s a task I don’t particularly care for.

At first glance, it appears that the work structures from the Pomodoro Technique and the Results Curve contradict each other. The Pomodoro Technique asks us to set aside a few minutes at the beginning and end of each session, while the Results Curve encourages us to focus on one task for as long as possible. However, it’s my opinion that these strategies actually complement one another. Reviewing previous work at the beginning of a session can plunge my brain into the middle of my task and help me get to that focused, productive zone more quickly. Once I’ve reached that zone, I don’t snap out of it when I perform the review at the end of the session; instead, my high level of concentration helps me to evaluate my work flow and quickly form ideas for how to make the next work session even more productive.

With these time management methods, you can effectively complete tasks at the intended time and be more productive. As you are refining your workflow using task lists, you can also clean up your Outlook, Mac, Gmail or Google Apps address books by removing duplicate contacts using the Scrubly duplicate contact remover tool. You can scan your contacts free by visiting

by utilizing the Pomodoro Technique and The Results Curve, you will soon be on top of managing even the most daunting projects!

Pomodoro Technique and The Results Curve Pomodoro Technique and The Results Curve Pomodoro Technique and The Results Curve Pomodoro Technique and The Results Curve

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