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Turning Your Conference Takeaways into Action Items

Published By Martha Garcia

Attending IT events this fall? The ideas are plentiful, but what will you do with them? Learn how to turn conference takeaways into action items.

Fall, time for pumpkin spice flavored everything and packing your bags to get to your much anticipated conferences and symposiums of the season.

For me, it’s Gartner Symposium/ITxpo taking place this week in Orlando FL. When you get over 9,000 of your peers of senior IT executives in one place at one time there’s no doubt that the connections you make while you’re there are priceless and the takeaways are plentiful!

But what happens the Monday after the event when you’re back in your office and your newest tchotchkes have found themselves a new home on your desk?

The last time I had the opportunity to connect with others in person about PPM was back in May for Gartner PPM and IT Governance Summit in National Harbor. The agenda was packed with engaging sessions and since we couldn’t be everywhere at once, we asked fellow attendees to send us some bright ideas that they had gathered from the sessions they attended. There were a few reoccurring themes in the snapshots they sent: resource management, establishing standard metrics, and looking at the “whole” instead of the “parts.” All great things to consider, but then we asked, “What can you start doing as soon as you get back to the office?” The question was intended to push people to think of what to do with the new knowledge they had gained at the event.

Collected Takeaways from the Gartner PPM and IT Governance Summit
QuestionRespondent #1Respondent #2
What are your top 3 takeaways?
  1. People first — deal with their psychology
  2. Multiple timekeeping systems have to be dealt with! They might not go away for a long time.
  3. Everybody (almost) is challenged by resource management.
  1. I have to review my team standard metrics according to what I learned this week.
  2. “Look at the whole instead of the parts.” — Mark Langley (PMI) & Matt Light (Gartner)
  3. “Good is the enemy of great.” — Matt Light (Gartner)
    I need to look for great PPM in my organization.
What can you start doing as soon as you get back to the office?
  • Start a stakeholder map
  • Review my current projects to see how I can apply some of the ideas I learned
  • Plan new projects based on excellent recommendations that I received in this event

How Do You Turn Your Conference Takeaways into Action Items?

Here are a few suggestions to turn the investment in your time and money at a conference into a worthwhile experience that keeps paying you (and your organization) back.

  • Stay ConnectedCircle back with the contacts you just added in your mobile device or whose card you just traded with. Send that email you promised to or invite those contacts you want to keep in touch with to connect with you on LinkedIn. Set a reminder to follow up with your new connections; you’ll be glad you did.
  • Ask: How Can I Apply This to My Organization?When listening to a conference presenter I find I get the most value out of his/her session when I put their presentation in the context of my own organization. Take notes and consider which of their suggestions are actionable ones that could make an impact in what you might already be doing, or perhaps it’s something that you’re not doing that strikes a chord. Keep a running “To try” list to add these suggestions to and then do it! Because as Jonathan Mildenhall, VP of Global Advertising Strategy and Content Excellence at The Coca-Cola Company said in a recent presentation I sat in on, “If you don’t have room to fail, you don’t have room to grow.”
  • Smart Note TakingBringing a tablet to the conference? I’d suggest adding tags to your notes or creating a specific idea folder or running list to keep these action items in so they are easily searchable when you get back to the office. You could consider using an app like Evernote, NoteSuite or Notability to keep track of your ideas across your mobile devices.
  • Schedule That Personalized Demo for You and Your TeamI’ve had the pleasure of meeting some great tech vendors at events whose solutions seem to be able to help me work more efficiently and allow me to focus on what matters when I meet them at an event. If I’m shopping for said solution at the time, I will take them up on a demo after I’ve had a chance to share my experience with my team. This is the chance to have them show me how they can address my issues at work that keep me up at night without any of the show floor distractions. I’ve also been able to invite co-workers that would benefit from said solutions to demos to have their questions answered also. Again, it’s back to my first point, circle back with your connections. Even the vendor you meet at an event can be a valuable business partner to your organization down the road.

I hope you find these tidbits useful as you get ready for your upcoming events! I’ll be attending a handful myself and will be keeping them in mind. Our team will also be on the other side of the booth at several upcoming events around the world. Check out our upcoming events at: We would love to see you there. Stop by, say hello and tell us what you’ve found most valuable about the conference. We do always appreciate your feedback.

Anything I’ve missed? What do you find to be most helpful to get the most of a conference that you’ve recently attended?

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Written by Martha Garcia

Martha Garcia graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a BS in Communication Studies. It was here that she developed an interest in corporate communication, specifically in the areas of change management within complex organizations as well as leadership and organizational behavior. Martha is responsible for working closely with thought leaders in the areas of IT and the PMO to develop compelling programs and content including informative webcasts and white papers for the IT PMO community.