How to Put What You’ve Learned at Convening Leaders Into Action


Convening Leaders participants listen as Molly Breazeale presents her Jan. 8 session, “Fierce Conversations Are Key to Driving Business Results.” (Jacob Slaton)

How will you take what you’ve learned at Convening Leaders 2019 in Pittsburgh back home with you? In an article Convene recently published, Charlotte Blank, chief behavioral officer at Maritz, talked about how our brains process our experiences at events.

If humans were perfectly rational decision-makers, she told Convene Deputy Editor Barbara Palmer, we might make a mental calculation about the value of events that looks something like this: the sum of the number of new connections made, the quality of the keynotes, how highly you rated the venue and the food and, Blank joked, “some sort of variable around cocktails.”

But, “of course, that’s not how it works. Humans aren’t economic calculators,” Blank said. “We’re much more complex and nuanced than that.”

There is a difference between the self as we experience events and the self as we remember them, Blank said. “They’re actually quite different, because we remember things in a biased way. The way that we take our experiences with us is not at all the same as how they were when we experienced them.”

Blank pointed to a cognitive bias called the “peak-end rule,” first identified by the Nobel Prize–winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman. In a nutshell, it means that when we look back on an event, we don’t take all of the moments we experienced and average them, Blank said. Instead, we are “biased to remember the peak moments of emotional intensity — the strongest moments, positive or negative — as well as the end of the event.”

On your way home, you might take a moment to mull over those experiences that struck an emotional chord. And then, let your rational mind take the lead. In a recent Institute of Fundraising blog post, fundraising professional Shonali Rodrigues shared the common event experience conundrum. “I’ve come away from three intense days at Fundraising Convention, bursting with new ideas, inspired to invigorate processes and products in my own organization, and with new contacts to help progress those ideas and my career,” she writes. “However — and this is something you may relate to — the euphoria of meeting others and learning new things started to fade within a few hours of being back at my desk, as the urgency of the day job began to reoccupy my thoughts.”

Rodrigues cited an Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. quote: “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” In order to make the most of that experience, she provided a handful of tips to put what you’ve learned at a conference into practice back at your desk. Consider following her cues to make the insights you’ve gained in Pittsburgh stick with you.

  • Connect immediately with those you have met through LinkedIn. Set an hour aside, Rodrigues recommends, to gather all the business cards you’ve collected, and send a message on LinkedIn that reminds them when you met and why you exchanged cards. If possible and relevant, she writes, suggest meeting up again for continued conversation.
  • Consolidate what you have learned from your sessions. “If you have time in your lunch break or on your commute, these are good opportunities to embed what you have learned. Ideally, you would leave yourself some revision time and some thinking time, but you could also break this down into 15-minute chunks over several journeys. Read through the session notes you have made.”
  • Share what you have learned. The best way to understand a concept is to explain it to someone else, Rodrigues says. She recommends thinking about ways — via email, blog, a presentation, or a less formal get-together with colleagues — to share your insights and takeaways.
  • And finally, she says, to make sure that whatever great ideas you got out of the conference don’t fade away, set some goals, establish an action plan, and seek mentors to support you.

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