Drinking from a Fire Hose – How to Get the Most Value from Training

Many of our friends, clients and colleagues are at the 2016 AAM Summit in New Orleans this week.  With dozens of sessions, covering everything from basic marketing and business development to more advanced strategies and tactics, attendees may find themselves feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information available to absorb over just a few days.

You want to get the most value from attending this conference or others like it, but how do you avoid feeling like you’re “drinking from a fire hose”?  Whether you are at a conference or participating in a training course, here are a few tips to help you most effectively learn and grow from your experience.

Be Strategic and Selective

dreamstime_xs_58676604Learning is a lifelong process, and it happens one step at a time.  You don’t have to learn everything all at once.  Keep this in mind when you are choosing the type of conference and training you want to attend, and be strategic and selective with your registrations.  Focus on the learning needs that are time-sensitive and will have the most impact on your work.  For example, if you are just getting started with your marketing programs, you might select courses that focus on basics like creating marketing plans and budgets.  For firms that are deeper into their marketing and business development programs, they may choose to focus on maturing business development or content marketing skills.

Limit the Number of Lessons You Learn

Popular psychology findings have shown that most people hold 7 ideas (+/- 2) in their working memory.  So it is understandable that when we are bombarded with dozens of new ideas, we not only feel overwhelmed, but also have trouble retaining new information.  We suggest setting a goal of walking away from training or a conference with two to four key ideas, and then focusing on remembering and implementing those ideas when you return to your office.  By focusing on a small number of lessons, you have a higher chance of successfully implementing those ideas and seeing a positive impact.  In some cases, you may need to prioritize what you plan to take away, often at the exclusion of other good ideas.  That’s OK – you will have another chance to focus on other new ideas at the next training or conference.

Share Your Learnings

Once you have had a chance to sit in on a class or conference session, you will likely have taken great notes and committed the ideas to memory.  By adding one more step of sharing or teaching what you learned to others in your department or office, you will gain a better understanding of the concepts and will commit the ideas to longer-term memory. We like to call this process “cascading your training”.  The added benefit, in addition to augmenting your own learning, is that you have the chance to introduce new ideas to others in your firm, helping to build buy-in and support for implementing these new ideas.

We hope you have the opportunity to participate in the AAM Summit this week or in any of the accounting and marketing conferences taking place this summer, and that you have the chance to test out these techniques.  These ideas for learning will also apply to any training programs you engage in with other groups or consultants, creating more value for the time and money invested in that training.

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