If you just attended the amazing ACCE conference for chamber executives, your mind is probably buzzing with all sorts of ideas.
You likely connected with chamber pros who inspired you and you–no doubt–attended sessions that have you incredibly excited about what could be in your community.
(If you found this while getting ready for this year’s ACCE conference, get some great tips on preparing beforehand.)
The exchange over the past several days has probably left you with tons of energy. On the plane or car ride home, you’ll be quickly trying to capture everything that’s on your mind.
But then the reality sets in.
Inspiration’s much less attractive sibling.
Extending and Leveraging Your ACCE Convention Experience
The ideas often come easy in such an inspiring atmosphere but then you get back to the office and BAM! You’re struck with how you can actually accomplish all that you want to. These tips can help.
1. The Postcard Method
I stole this one from Beth Kanter and a blog post she wrote years ago. This brilliant idea can help you feel organized and not so overwhelmed.
Take 3-5 self-addressed postcards to the conference. As you feel inspired, write a takeaway or something you want to implement and write just one idea per card.
Mail them to yourself throughout the conference or hold them for the last day. You could even do this once you’re home and looking at your notes.
It will take a few days for the postcards to get to you, which is exactly what you’ll need to get settled in again. They’ll arrive just at the perfect time to give them your attention.
2. Make Business Cards Useful
If you’re still collecting paper business cards, use your trip home to make notations on the backs of them about who you want to follow up with and what was discussed while it’s still fresh in your mind.
Also, use this time to be a connector. Think about who you know who could benefit from meeting the people you met at the convention. Make the introductions when you return, assuming all parties are okay with that.
3. Thank Those Who Made a Difference
You made some great connections at ACCE. Take some time to follow up with them in a few days or a week. That gives people time to get back into the office but not forget about meeting you.
If you want to stand out, send a hand-written note. If you have a long flight, this is the perfect time to jot down some ideas or
Also, mention something specific of your conversation or connection. This will help you stand out in their mind.
For instance, if you connected over your pet the communication might go something like this, “It was nice meeting you. The cover of this note features a picture of my Boston Terrier, Lucy, who was very happy to see me when I got home. I hope Beans is doing well, too. I’d love to see a pic sometime. They’re such wonderful dogs.”
Follow up is essential to maintaining that connection. Don’t let it lapse. If you promised to share something with someone when you got back to the office, do it. Put it in your calendar on your phone as an event if you need to.
4. Reach Out to Presenters
Presenters are people too and those at ACCE are highly invested in the chamber world. If you enjoyed a presentation or learning session, tell them.
If you have additional questions about something presented, ask. Contacting people is easy on social media even if you didn’t get any of their contact information at the convention.
5. Take the Time to Build Support for Your New Ideas
You’ve been working hard while at conference but you’ve also had a refreshing change in scenery and shared some wonderful experiences with like-minded chamber professionals.
Your staff and board can’t say the same of their week. For this reason, don’t come busting through the doors with new assignments for everyone.
Remember these great ideas you’re bringing back sprung from hours or days of thought. Give your audience the same time to mull over whatever concepts are going to reinvigorate or rebrand your chamber.
6. Share Your Conference Learning
That’s not to say you shouldn’t bring everything you learned back to the office. You should and you’ll want to present
Just give it a few days.
The best way to learn anything is to show others. Remember your staff and board who didn’t attend might not have the same interest in the idea that you do. Stay the course and give stats and examples of others’ success and eventually they’ll come around.
7. Use Your Content
Attending a conference means you should have ideas for social media content and blog posts for the better part of a month. You should come home with plenty of inspiring quotes to tweet, gems to create image posts from, stats for infographics, and concepts to expand upon in your blog posts.
8. Stay in Touch
In addition to reaching out to your new connections via their contact information, make sure you stay in touch online as well. There are a number of ways to do this like following them on social media and joining the Chamber of Commerce Pros group on Facebook, which is over 7,500 strong as of this writing.
Keeping up those connections is easier on social media than remembering to send an email every few months.
If you see them virtually daily and make comments on their posts, you’ll remain on their minds and continue to solidify and build those important relationships.
9. Get Some Rest
Chamber pros often burn the candle at both ends. You’ve just invested in yourself and your professional development at ACCE. Don’t let that learning go to waste by disregarding your health. Take a day or so to rest up from a trip that undoubtedly was comprised of several non-stop days.
10. Watch Some Demos
If there was a technology at ACCE that interested you, make time to watch the demo. Decide if it’s something you need to preview first on your own and then bring staff in or if it benefits everyone to be in the information gathering.
If you’re seriously considering the tech after watching the demo, reach out to your newly-made connections and ask about their experiences with the product or service.
11. Follow the Chambers (and Chamber Pro) of the Year
I hope you attended the ACCE awards presentation and learned about why some chambers (and chamber pros) were nominated. You can learn quite a bit from these extraordinary operations and the people involved with them.
Follow them on the social media platforms of your preference and the learning continues as you can see what they’re doing and the programs and events they’re hosting. They may serve as inspiration for your own work.
12. Tag People in Pictures
If you’re sharing shots from the ACCE Conference on social media, tag people in them. One word of caution, don’t tag them in unflattering or unbecoming pictures.
If their eyes are closed or they look overly “blissful” leave the tag off and consider either not using the picture, cropping them out, or adding a funny mix-in like sunglasses or a party hat.
Remember, you want this to be a connection builder, not one that will make them look unprofessional or be embarrassed.
13. Share Using the Conference Hashtag
You undoubtedly did this during the conference but continue to share valuable content afterward using the same hashtag. People may still be reading and exploring using the hashtag as a guide.
Feel free to use this even several weeks after the conference ended.
Don’t forget to use your own hashtags as well so people who are interested in connecting with you or following you can do so easily.
14. Ask Yourself the Tough Question
Just as you might in a chamber event you produced, conduct your own personal recap of your ACCE attendance.
What do you wish you had done more of? What goal was left untouched? What could you have done better? What would you change if you were going to the conference again tomorrow?
Consider things like preparation, travel arrangements, connections made, time spent on certain activities or in certain pursuits, things you brought, etc. Add this wishlist/review to an electronic calendar entry/reminder set for next June (or before depending on what you’ve fleshed out) so that you can adequately prepare for the conference.
15. Consider Teaching and Giving Back
One of the beauties of ACCE is that it is not a one-sided dissemination of knowledge where instructors bark ideas from on high. Most of the people you saw present sat in your seat as an attendee at one point.
ACCE looks for presenters who are implementing and doing, not academics presenting theory that hasn’t been tested. That’s why I highly encourage you, at some point, to consider giving back to this community by sharing what you’ve learned and how you took it back and innovated at your chamber.
It’s not only a professional growth milestone that could open additional doors for you in the future, it’s a way to help someone else who’s sitting in the crowd ripe with anticipation, just like you were.
The ACCE conference is a wonderful opportunity to gain new knowledge, network with your peers and learn from them, and be inspired.
Take that information back with you and present it to people with time allocated for them to gain the same value from it that you did.