Photo Credit: Official GDC via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Official GDC via Compfight cc

Attending a conference is a great opportunity to learn and interact with like minded colleagues from around the world.  Conferences can also be exhausting and overwhelming as the program is often fast and furious and you interact with many people in a very short timespan.  In this post I reflect on my strategies for gathering and synthesising information when attending conferences and how I attempt to bring some value back to the institution when I return.

I am pretty old-school at conferences to be honest.  I usually take my pen and notepad and make notes as I go through sessions and interact with colleagues.  I’ll have a laptop or tablet with me to gather more information, participate in online components of the conference, update social media or access the conference program.  However I usually do not try and take notes on my device as I find it can be distracting personally. Most of the notes I take in my notebook are done immediately following a speakers’ session as I try to sum up what they have said.

Back at the office (and often weeks later 🙂 ) I attempt to resynthesize my notes and type them up electronically.  In the process I conduct web searches to connect the ideas to research and information online.  I often also end up using conference biographies and abstracts to connect speakers to projects and their institutions.  These reflective notes then become a public blog post which I share with colleagues and the world.

Also helpful is the fact that conferences often provide audio recordings or video which you can also revisit when drafting up your reflection.  This can be really useful in revisiting and solidifying the topic of the conference session.  Another option is to take an audio recorder or use your phone to capture a podcast of the speaker.  Always a good idea to ask the speaker if it is ok, but if that is not feasible treat the recording as private and do not share the audio.

One other tool I am thinking of using in the future is the LiveScribe pen, which allows you to take notes which are then connected to an audio recording of your environment, for example capturing the audio of the conference speaker.

What strategies do you use when attending conferences?   Share some ideas in the comment box below.