By: Tara Puckey
Small-staff associations don’t often have large professional development budgets, which means only one staffer will typically attend a certain conference. That’s why it’s important to have a strategy for sharing takeaways and newly acquired knowledge with the full team.
Small-staff budgets don’t usually equal big staff professional-development funds, so it’s likely that you’ve been the single staffer from your organization at one conference or another. That typically means you go, soak up the knowledge, and return to your post at your association. But what happens after that?
Rather than letting all that information sit with only you, take the opportunity to spread the wealth to the rest of your team. It doesn’t have to be boring slide decks with bullet points or sleep-inducing written reports either.
In fact, please don’t do that. Check out some of these creative ways to share all the conference “stuff” with the rest of your staff (sharing is caring, after all):
Share your notes. Take notes in a shared space like Evernote or Google Docs. Encourage others to leave comments about areas they’d like to learn more about, and then schedule times to chat offsite casually about their specific interests.
Host a brown bag lunch. Bring the team together with lunchboxes in tow or ask the boss to splurge for pizza (everyone loves pizza, right?) and pick one conference topic to focus on. Talk about five takeaway lessons about that topic from the conference—too many will just seem overwhelming and stifle conversation—and then encourage dialogue.
It doesn’t matter how you share what you’ve learned: The key is getting the information out there and allowing brainstorming and thoughtful conversation to take place.
Find what’s relevant. Look back at the conference schedule and the sessions you attended. Then, using notecards, write the topic of each “lesson” you learned from a session and spread them out on the table. As a team, decide which areas are really important to the organization, especially right now. Focus on those areas only, and not the other stuff.
Create a game. Take some of the facts, statements, and figures that you learned and create a trivia game or a matching game. It’s great to play casually over pizza as a way to spark conversation with a side of competition.
It doesn’t matter how you share what you’ve learned: The key is getting the information out there and allowing brainstorming and thoughtful conversation to take place. Reciting a bulleted list doesn’t allow others to engage in the process, and the organization will likely struggle to implement any new initiatives as a result of new information.
That’s why it’s important to get together, set the tone for sharing and inviting new ideas, and give your organization (and you) more bang for the buck when it comes to conferences and professional development.