This post is about what I do to leverage conferences, events, and trade shows after getting home. Attending wine events (or conferences in any other field) can be expensive and time consuming, so it’s important to do the most you can to take advantage of your attendance.
This post won’t go into the prep work you should do beforehand which is even more important. But that preparation is sort of common sense. Call your contacts. Initiate new contacts. Let people know you’ll be attending. And so on. This post will focus on the best things to do when you get home after the conference or event.
Write down what happened
Even if you have a good memory, it’s important to write things down. Fresh after the event, everything is crisp in your mind. But two weeks later, memories get fuzzier. Details get dropped. The exact order of things is forgotten. It’s always best to write down as much as possible within a day or two of getting home. If you’re doing several trips in a row, it’s tempting to sleep while traveling. I try really hard to write stuff down before closing my eyes on the train. A lot of people will recommend that you take notes at the actual conference. But I sort of hate doing that. I’d much rather listen closely and jot things down later.
Alternatively, you can make audio and video recordings of everything. But beware because listening to audio recordings is exceptionally time consuming. Video is slightly easier to scroll through and find a specific point. But audio recording has no good scrolling mechanisms. So this method costs you a lot of time. Written notes are much easier to browse through quickly and they can jog your memory almost as well as a verbatim recording.
Publish media quickly
Almost everybody I talk to favors edited videos to unedited. I think this is one situation where everybody is wrong. In the days following a conference, people who weren’t able to attend will desperately want to experience as much audio and video as possible. Photos are good too, but unless you’re an exceptional photographer or the conference attendees are superbly attractive, photo is not as useful as video and audio. Unpolished video recordings can be very ugly Blair Witch Projects, but if they capture a keynote speaker that cost 30K Euros to have at the conference, then your crappy video is worth a lot.
Publish quickly as interest is highest during and immediately after the conference. Consider sites like ustream to do live streaming. I don’t know how long vocaroo recordings can be, but that might be an idea too for live audio recordings.
I will also note that people who make good charts, graphs, or infographics can generate a lot of interest. Hell, just taking really good notes is enough. Upload really well-written notes to your blog. Any primary source artifacts can be as powerful as photos and other audio/visual stuff.
Contact your new friends
I’m actually really bad at this. I lose business cards and contacts very quickly. I have to make an effort to sit down and email all my new friends and acquaintances as quickly as possible. Follow up on any requests. Send information to people who asked for it. Include links to your facebook and twitter page in case people wish to follow you on one of those platforms. Add people on facebook while they still remember what you look like.
Think about the conference
This sounds really obvious. But you have to take some time to process all the things you have heard. Spend a serious amount of time thinking about how it affects you. I meet a lot of people who complain about conference topics being irrelevant to them. Sometimes, things really don’t relate to your work. But a lot of the time, the subjects that seem totally unrelated can teach you the most revolutionary ideas. I like to think about this while I drive, draw, and .. everything that starts with dr.. drink?
Think about whether certain themes emerged from the conference. Most of the speakers don’t coordinate beforehand. So if there were themes emerging naturally throughout the conference, think about these themes. They’re probably important. Try to develop the theme more on your own.
Read about the conference
While the last bit of advice seemed obvious, this one is a bit counterintuitive. You just attended the event so you might think that you don’t need to read other peoples’ accounts of it. On the contrary, reading about other peoples’ experiences can help give you perspective and initiate new ideas and interpretations.
Every time you see an article pop up about the conference or a conversation happens over twitter or whatever… copy the URL down. When you have more than a couple articles, you can publish this list of URLs. In the first few days after a conference, all the people who weren’t able to attend will want more information. If you develop a useful resource like a list of all the articles about the conference, people will use it and link to it.
Publish your ideas quickly
Publish your ideas quickly. This is not the same as publishing media quickly. You can take a little more time to process your ideas and reactions. But the important thing is to publish. Ideally, you met amazing people at the conference and got a bunch of great ideas. Now that you’re home, you can share those ideas, expand on them, talk about the people you met, or anything else that comes to mind. Being there in person was great for you. But now you can get a second round of good stuff by publishing your experiences.
Brag about your success
This is really awkward because most people are uncomfortable bragging. Believe me or not, I don’t really like bragging. It’s weird and I feel like a jerk when I do it. But this is very important. Try to find tasteful ways of letting people know that the event well and that you had a good time and that you’re proud of your company or your product. If some important personalities comment on your business, go home and write that down. Publish it. Let people know that writers enjoyed your wines. Or if a leader in the field thinks you’re ahead of the curve.
If you got a radio interview or a speech, that’s awesome because it went out to a live audience. But there’s nothing stopping you from uploading that interview to your site and getting the message out to your personal audience too. Radio, TV, and a lot of print sources are somewhat temporal. They’ll be archived somewhere and nobody will see or hear of them for the rest of your life. But you put something on the web and it’s google-findable until the machines rise up against us.
Concrete examples from the European Wine Bloggers’ Conference
In the spirit of bragging… 😀
I attended the European Wine Bloggers Conference last year in Vienna, Austria. The two keynote speakers were from the publishing business and I felt like their subjects might be slightly irrelevant to me. Most wine bloggers are intense writers whereas I’m more of a winemaker and (at the time) video person. But I attended the keynotes anyway out of a sense of curiosity.
It turns out that both of those keynotes have been very important to the way 2010 finished. After getting home, I had to go through decuvage because the conference was timed right at the end of harvest. But when I could, I made time to think and read and publish.
One keynote was about ivory tower wine journalism. I liked the overall sentiment of the speaker, but I criticized some of her criteria. I also mentioned a Wine Advocate critic by name. A week later that wine critic emailed me asking if I would share some additional information with my readers. Since then, the person who gave the keynote has recontacted me with her thoughts on the matter and some clarifications of her own (which I promise to publish sooooon). Without inflating the importance of this exchange, I think it’s clear that what you do when you get home can be very important. This one post kept the conversation going between movers and shakers, some of whom weren’t even attending the original conference. That’s gold.
Another keynote was on the history of digital publishing and how it will affect wine writers. Again, I thought this would mostly be irrelevant to me since I didn’t think of myself as a wine writer. But the more I listened to the speaker, the more I realized this was a relevant topic for a winemaker. The speaker specifically mentioned that some writing was better suited for traditional publishing while other writing was really much better suited for digital publishing. When I got home, I crudely attempted to expand on the idea that there might be a book format which can only exist through digital publishing. That post initiated a conversation with a fellow winemaker in the Languedoc. And we brainstormed my short reference book on the wines of Carcassonne. I listened to the keynote in October. By Christmas, I was a self-published author. And before new years, I got a full write up on jancisrobinson.com and lots of encouraging emails from respected wine writers.
The European Wine Bloggers Conference was a great event to attend. Very enriching. Lots of wine. Lots of learning. Lots of new and old friends. And it’s very tempting to come back to Carcassonne and go straight to work in the vineyard and winery. But there is still a lot of work to be done post conference. Think about it!