Posted by Kirsten_Barkved
Show of hands if the following scenario has ever happened to you:
You make it to a conference. You sit through three to four days of amazing content, network like a boss, fill up on coffee and donuts, and cover page after page of notes — your wrist is dangerously close to being diagnosed with carpal tunnel. The energy in the room is contagious and everyone leaves the conference with the promise of new strategies, connections, and ideas that have the possibility to transform the way you think about business.
At least, that’s the dream. The reality? Once the conference is over, you're back to the grind, no longer surrounded by that vibrant "we can do anything" energy that had you so inspired and hyped just days before. The buzz is now a dull hum. Your notebook is full of scribbles that you can no longer decipher, and you have a daunting to-do list to catch up on while you nurse a sugar hangover from eating three-days worth of donuts.
You’ve lost the fire. The conference motivation is gone. You, my friend, have the post-conference scaries.
With MozCon fast approaching, the excitement is building. But so is the anxiety: you know there’s going to be a ton of insightful talks and takeaways to write home about — how do you keep all that goodness going after MozCon?
We've all been there! And we want to make sure you’re set up for success. So myself and our Subject Matter Experts whipped up an extensive and effective guide to ensure you can put all the goodness you’ve absorbed at MozCon to work straight away. Read on to see what Britney Muller, Rob Bucci, Cyrus Shepard, Dr. Pete, and Miriam Ellis have to offer!
Before you head to MozCon, though, make sure you do these things first
We know this isn’t your first rodeo. But on the off chance that it is, or if you need a reminder before you set foot in MozCon, make like the Boy Scouts of America: Be prepared.
Because I’m a keener (remind me to tell you about the time I waited for 24 hours to be first in line for The Fellowship of the Ring movie) with a tendency to overprepare (remind me also to tell you about my first day of school where I packed all my favorite Nancy Drews, my best pencil crayons, a raincoat, and a pair of extra socks), I spend quite a chunk of time ensuring I have everything I need before an event.
You don't need to be as prepared as my eight-year-old self, but here’s a brief checklist of things to do before you pack your bags and set sail for MozCon:
- Study the agenda — You’ve likely already glanced at who’s speaking. Take another skim to get an idea of who is speaking and what topics will fulfill an educational gap. Even if a topic isn't related to your area of work, it's still worthwhile to listen — who knows what you'll uncover.
- Set goals for what you’d like to learn — Whatever your game plan looks like, flesh it out to flesh out. Show up ready to learn.
- Prepare your note-taking tools — There is no such thing as too many pens, not at a conference like MozCon. You’ll be taking a ton of notes, so prepare your note-taking tools, whatever they may be — charge your laptop or tablets, pack a spare notebook and some well-inked pens, or practice your telepathy if you plan on sending takeaways to your team via your mind.
- Subscribe to the Moz blog — We have oodles of content for you to sink your teeth into and there’s something for everyone, from basic SEO to local search to the nitty-gritty technical. Plus, we'll be doing conference recaps after each day, so even if you couldn't make it this year, you'll get all the juicy details straight to your inbox when you subscribe.
- Make connections — There is ample opportunity at MozCon to network and meet new people but it never hurts to get a lay of the digital land before you step foot in Seattle. Follow the hashtag #mozcon on Twitter to stay up to date with MozCon goers and ask important questions of our speakers, like this:
You can also join the Facebook group to find out when people are arriving and pop in on conversations to get your name and face out there. If you know of people you want to reconnect that will be attending, now is a good idea to reach out and reconnect. Set up a time to chat over a coffee or maybe make plans to sit together at our Birds of Feather table.
At the conference
It's Day One of MozCon and you've successfully found the coffee. Now what?
Attend every session...
And we mean every. Single. Session.
The great thing about MozCon is that it's a single track session, so you don't have to pick one talk over another. That also means, though, that the temptation can be high for skipping one or two.
“It may be tempting to sleep in on a morning session, but so much magic happens when you aren't there. You never know what nuggets of insight you'll miss.” — Cyrus Shepard
"I often find I have some of my best ideas at conferences, even if they're not related to anything the speaker is talking about. Capture those ideas, too, and add them to your action plan." — Dr. Pete
...But don't be afraid to mingle in-between sessions
"Take breaks if you feel like it and spend some time meeting people out in the lobby. New MozCon friends can help hold each other accountable after the conference. I've met some of my closest industry friends in the lobby of conferences during a session — hi, Cyrus!" — Britney Muller
Remember what you learn
There's a lot of information to digest and chances are that your hurried note-taking isn't going to make a ton of sense once the MozCon high is over. To make deciphering your notes easier once you're back at the office, add three key takeaways or any follow up you want to do on the topic after each session.
You can also create a page dedicated to takeaways that you think are worthy. While I’m definitely taking notes during each session, I reserve a separate page for any ideas, theories, or strategies that I think are valuable to explore.
Make sure you're keeping your goals in mind, too. If you had planned on learning new things at MozCon, keep your ears open for any topics that piqued your interest.
"Write down at least one topic that grabbed your interest but that you felt could be studied further and commit to doing that study at your business and publishing your findings. Don't forget to ping the original presenter when you do, letting them know their talk inspired your further investigation." — Miriam Ellis
"At the end of each conference day, I also like to schedule emails to myself (a few weeks out) as reminders to attempt the things I learned about that day." — Britney Muller
Keep tabs on live tweeters
MozCon has some pretty prolific live tweeters that know just how to distill all the right takeaways into 280 characters (which, IMO, is quite a feat). Some of our past MozCon live-tweeters have included:
You can also keep up with the conference goers by following the conference hashtag, #mozcon.
"Also, follow Cyrus Shepard on Twitter and do everything he says!" — Britney Muller
Take note of any free templates, tools, or spreadsheets
Much like parents who want nothing but the best from you (and also to sometimes show off your life successes on the family fridge), the speakers want you to excel in life after MozCon. Which is why you’re bound to find a plethora of downloadable templates and spreadsheets during their talk. Take note of any that you'd like to try back at the office. Make sure to also follow the speakers on Twitter for any updates or insider tips on how to make the most of their new resources.
Download the talks
I’m sure you already know, but on the off chance you didn't know, you’ll be able to download all the speaker's slide decks once their talks are over. So if there was something you missed, wanted to share with the team at home base, or needed clarification on, you can do so with one click of a button once they're available.
After the conference
Write about it
I know the last thing you want to do right after three days of learning and writing is to go and do more writing. But Future You will be so happy that Past You did this one thing.
The second you're done MozCon-ing, write everything down. Get it all out of your brain and onto paper. Because otherwise, you'll forget why you underlined a word or phrase three times or the cool new project ideas you had while chatting at dinner. You won't mean to, obviously. It's just one of those unfortunate facts of life. Kind of like drifting off to sleep with a really great idea for a band name — you'll tuck it away in a pocket of your brain, certain you won't forget about it in the morning. But you will. And the world will never know of They Might Be Little Pigeons.
So, write everything down the second you can.
"I'm one of those people who takes notes like, "Cheese fritters + SEO = YES!" and am very excited about it and have no idea what it meant a week later. So: Re-copy your notes or write a summary, ASAP, while it's still fresh in your mind— even if it's on the flight home." — Dr. Pete
Schedule thinking time
The first week back at the office, block out some time in your calendar to percolate over what you learned at MozCon. I can’t stress this one enough: When we get back into the real world, we dive right into our list of to-dos, at home and at work. And the longer we delay the thinking and brainstorming process, the bigger the chance we’ll lose motivation or get bogged down by more projects.
Carve out some thinking time for yourself in your calendar the second you’re back at your desk to ask yourself some questions:
- What really stood out for me?
- What do I want to apply right away?
- What is going to be effective short term vs. long term?
I like to ideate to-do lists from these questions — maybe that’s a follow-up email with the speaker or a task to read further resources from their talk. Or maybe it’s to set up a meeting with my team to try out a new strategy. The point is: if I take this time now to marinate, the better chance I have of helping out future me — and future me really appreciates that.
"It's so easy to go from hundreds of ideas to doing nothing concrete, and as soon as you return to your desk, you're going to be buried in emails and requests. Commit to something actionable before you open up your inbox." — Dr. Pete
Review your action items
Now that you’ve done your big thinking, it’s time to turn those takeaways and actions items into, well, action.
Think back to the goals you outlined before you set foot inside MozCon — did you meet any of them? How well did the topics address your questions? And how will you apply your action items? When I’m looking over my notes for any new ideas we can execute on, I like to make a table with two columns: 1) Things that we don’t do but could and 2) Things we’re currently doing but could be doing better.
Got a lot of action items and feel a tad overwhelmed? Just remember: If you apply just one action item a week, even if it's small, that's still fifty small changes you've made in one year. And they can all add up to one big change.
You’ll want to prioritize them like so:
- Strategic initiatives to implement right away
- Processes you can improve
- Areas for future learning
“A week after the conference, review your "action items" — either by yourself or with your team. Prepare a presentation for the top things you learned and share with any team members that didn't attend." — Cyrus Shepard
"Pin yourself down to three specific to-dos for the month after the conference." — Dr. Pete
Remember that anything in life worth having (relationships, bangs, product launches, puzzles) requires more than just an idea — it takes time and work. Rather than let all that enthusiasm you had at MozCon fade away, keep the momentum going by reading and learning new things. A good place to start is by subscribing to daily industry reads that can fuel your inspiration. Here is just a sampling to get you started:
"Having a go-to list of daily industry reads is a really good way to keep the sense of inspiration up." — Rob Bucci
Use your connections
What good was all that networking if you don’t put it to use — especially if, like me, you're a Level-12 Introvert?
Make sure all those hard-earned connections don't go to waste. Chances are, if you saw them at MozCon, you’ll be seeing them at the same tracks and conferences, so it'd be good to set some sort of foundation
All it takes is a LinkedIn message or an email. And they'll appreciate you following up — bonus points if you make it personal. I’ve made several follow up emails after conferences and almost all blossomed into successful working relationships thanks in large part to emails that began as though we were continuing the conversation we had at MozCon. It doesn't have to be the same as “Hi, how’s your dog, is she still afraid of traffic cones?,” but a nice "Hi, how is life after MozCon — are you settling back into the 9-5, yet?" goes a long way.
“It’s great to collect business cards, but it’s better to form life-long relationships. If you haven’t connected with those you met at MozCon, now is the time to do so. At a minimum, email everyone you enjoyed meeting with and let them know that you can be a resource for them.” — Cyrus Shepard
MozCon only comes once a year — like International Pancake Day or 7-11's Free Slurpee Day — so make sure you're prepared so you can keep that MozCon fire burning all year round.
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