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What Happens in Vegas....

You know the rest. But, is the rest right? I’m writing this on the plane as I leave Las Vegas having just spoken at a convention attended by 80,000 participants. On any given day, thousands of conventions, meetings, and seminars are held throughout the country. You may have been to one. In fact, some people are professional conference attendees. They attend every one they can. But, for them, “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” And that is a waste of time and money.

Some professions are more focused on improvement than others. Architects have a continuing education requirement, as do professional speakers who wish to maintain the Certified Speaking Professional designation. Skilled trades encourage development as a path to higher wages. In all cases, the goal is to learn and get better. Some of this learning will benefit your company or organization. All of it will benefit you – if you don’t leave it in Vegas.

Some research suggests that much of the money invested in training is wasted because people don’t put into practice what they learned; they leave it in Vegas. Here are a few pointers to help you get more bang for your buck:

  • Have a pre-program plan – You have a pretty good idea of what the program will offer. So, figure out what you don’t know before you get there. Once you understand your strengths and weaknesses in a given area, you can determine the key things you’ll want to learn at the program. Then, you will be better able to hone in on that material and retain it.
  • Be involved at the program – Don’t be a wallflower; actively listen to what’s being said. Sit toward the front of the room. You don’t have to be in the front row; 4th or 5th row is fine. (When you sit in back, you become less engaged, more distracted.) Make eye contact with the speaker; it will enhance your retention. Take notes. Not only will this help you stay focused on what’s being said, but years later, you’ll find that these notes are a great reference tool! And you might be surprised to see that actually done something with the material. Or, you may see that you are now in better position to do something with it. Trust me—I’ve sat through plenty of bad presentations. But I can usually get something out of every one of them, if I pay attention.
  • Develop a post-program action plan – Write down what you are going to do and when you will begin doing it. Research points to the first 24-72 hours after your program as being the best time to enact behavior changes and begin use of new material. It also tells us that, if you wait longer than 72 hours, you probably won’t capitalize on what you learned, and the potential for improvement will be lost.

You don’t have to undertake a major endeavor right off the bat; just do something to get you moving. An action plan is the perfect way to track your short-term and long-term goals. For some folks, it’s a difficult step -- but it’s also the one with the biggest impact. You might need some help. If your boss sends you to a program, come back and brief him or her on what you learned, how you’d like to use that knowledge to benefit the organization… and what they can do to help you succeed.

The military taught me a lot, but it didn’t teach me how to develop an action plan for using training to increase return on investment. Yet, it’s having the action plan that lets us bring what we need back from Vegas (or wherever we go) and use it to get the highest possible payout.

Wally Adamchik is President of FireStarter Speaking and Consulting. Visit the website at www.beaFireStarter.com. He can be reached at 919-673-9499 or wally@beaFireStarter.com.

" ...it was one of the most dynamic and interesting talks I have ever witnessed on general leadership and effective management. I thought it was very interesting to see how you approached the topic from the bottom up -- from the grunt's perspective. This made the topic very easy for me to relate to and gave me ideas on how to develop the leaders I am responsible for."

Noel S. Salac, P.E.
Construction Engineer
Nebraska Dept. of Roads