How to THRIVE at Your Next Workshop

Conferences, workshops and seminars are all a form of investment in yourself and in your business. They help you develop new skills, gain insights on industry trends and access loads of new contacts and connections—not to mention the travel and free meals involved!

Make sure you see returns on your next event investment by taking your self-education seriously. Here are a few ways to make sure you get the most out of your next childcare business workshop:

Set a goal.
Before attending an event, ask yourself: What do I want to gain from this? It is important to know what you want to achieve and why you want to achieve it. Are you looking to improve costs and balance your budget? Do you want to gain concrete ideas for recruiting new, quality staff? Whatever your objective, identify what it is and how you can measure whether or not it’s being achieved afterwards.

Do your research.
Who is hosting the event? What topics are being highlighted? Who is speaking? Do your research beforehand so you have a base of knowledge to build from. Also, make sure to preview the schedule so you can know exactly when sessions start. There’s nothing worse than running into a session late because you were networking in the lobby. Speaking of networking, visit the workshop’s Facebook event page to preview attendees and speakers and plan to connect with them ahead of time. Once workshops begin, the energy can be fast and furious, so get in front of the madness by planning ahead!

Your packing list should include your laptop, chargers, pencil sharpeners, back-up pens, extra notebooks, folders, white out, business cards—literally anything you could possibly need for your day of note-taking, learning and networking. You’re going to spend a huge part of your day jotting down tips and tricks and you don’t want to get caught with dead batteries or an out-of-ink pen. Another important thing to bring? A team member! Inviting staff to childcare events shows you’re invested in their growth and it allows them to better buy into your company and what it can provide them (other than a pay check).

Be present.
Don’t burn the candle at both ends! We love a good networking cocktail, but those wake-up calls come early. On the day, make sure your schedule is cleared, your ‘out of office’ is on and you’re ready to focus. You’re going to put in some long hours and you need to remove as much stress as possible from your experience. Stay hydrated and moving during breaks to keep your energy up and remove distractions by keeping your workspace clear (aka put the phone away!). It’s also a good idea to arrive early and pick a good seat. Our tip? The closer you are to the front, the fewer the distractions in front of you.

Be proactive.
Don’t be shy! Wear your name tag and introduce yourself to other attendees. Also, have your elevator speech ready—just a quick, 30-second introduction of yourself and your company will do. You want to exchange information with as many people as possible and share your goals with other attendees. You never know who could be a good resource for you—or you to them! Breaks between sessions are a great time for networking. And, if you’re attending with a colleague, be sure and sit separately from them in order to connect and learn from new people. Then, at the end of the learning day, you can share your new contacts and have access to twice the amount of people!

The great thing about workshops and seminars is that they are more intimate than conferences and other multi-day events. Take advantage of this smaller group setting by asking questions and staying involved in the conversation. Also, most events will have a dedicated hashtag allowing you to strike up discussions online. Tag your tweets and Instagram photos properly and follow the hashtag to see what other attendees are talking about at the event.

Hone your note-taking skills.
Do you have note-taking know-how? Efficient note takers know not to write down every word and to use symbols and abbreviations so as to never get left behind. They also know how to be active listeners—concentrating on the speaker while continuing to jot down the most important points. Your goal should be to take as many notes as possible, especially of action items, and then review and condense these notes at the end of the workshop day.

Follow up and take action.
Learning shouldn’t stop when you leave the event—the end of the workshop is just the beginning! After the workshop, add the connections you’ve made to your network—this includes sending follow-up emails, adding contacts to your phone and sharing any information you’ve promised. It’s also a great idea to update your LinkedIn with new connections and the training you’ve received. Also, set an action plan for yourself straight away and block time in the coming weeks and months to review your progress. And if you share your action plan with someone else, they can help keep you accountable and make sure you follow through.


Get to know your workshop hosts!
Your hosts hold the keys to the workshop’s (and your!) success. If you need assistance, these are the people to ask. Workshop hosts are there for you and can make reasonable accommodations to assure your needs are met. For instance, don’t be shy to ask for another workshop handout or a quick question about the content. And by all means, give feedback at the end of the workshop so the hosts can make adjustments for future events!

Meredith Martin