Attending an event in person isn’t something most of did a lot of the last couple of years. I believe that’s beginning to change. Regardless, whether an event is in person or virtual, whether it’s a meeting, presentation, or conference you might think you have little control over what you take away from the event. You’d be wrong. Granted you have almost no control over content. However, you have total control over what you focus on and how you take action. Before attending an event make a plan of action.

Attending an Event? Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something

What’s the Purpose?

Before attending an event determine its purpose. What’s it about? Is there collateral material about the event? Check online for reviews, ask previous attendees what they took away, and contact the presenter-facilitator for insights. Next, ask yourself does this sound useful? Does it fit my needs?

What if You’re Required to Attend?

Vet the meeting just as you would if it was an optional event, and then either focus on areas of the presentation that fits your needs, or approach your management team and explain how the meeting doesn’t fit your needs. Caution: You don’t want to step on toes especially if it’s your boss. Sometimes it may be wiser to attend rather than ruffle feathers.

If you approach management about excusing yourself from the meeting do so from the point of view of how it will benefit the team; what you could accomplish with the time or how others will be able to increase their participation.

Are There Options?

Do you have choices at the event? For example, is it a conference with breakout sessions or other alternatives? If so, choose the presentations that best fit your needs. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But I’ve chosen to attend lectures not based on what best fit my needs, but rather what sounded fun, or because I was familiar with the presenter, or friends invited me to join them. Your priority should be needs first.

What Do You Want to Take Away?

Before you attend any presentation determine what you want to take away from the event. Once again it sounds like I’m stating the obvious, and I am, but that doesn’t mean people do this. Most of us attend seminars and conferences with little more than some vague idea of what we hope to gain from attending.

Ask yourself:

  • What do I want to learn?
  • What’s best for my organization?
  • Where do I need help?
  • What work problems need immediate attention?
  • What opportunities could be gained by new insights?

The five questions, listed above might seem redundant, and maybe they are, but by answering these questions you’ll have a more focused reason for attending any meeting or seminar.

Take Good Notes

Regardless of how good your memory is, you can’t keep every salient point in your head. And even if you could, who would want to? Wouldn’t you rather keep your mind free for creative thought?

I’m known for taking copious notes. If I’m not note taking I’m doodling. It’s how I concentrate. ADHD ya know. As I take notes, I highlight the points that best fit my needs, and after the presentation I review my notes, organizing them, and recognizing the key takeaways.

Ask Questions

Hopefully, the facilitator calls for questions. When I present I ask for questions throughout my presentation but what if the speaker doesn’t solicit questions?

Know what you want to ask before you ask. Formulate your questions before you open your mouth. Jot questions down before asking them and then, raise your hand and politely ask if you may ask a question. The worst that could happen is the presenter refuses your request. However, it’s been my experience that most speakers appreciate thoughtful questions. It shows the participants are engaged.

Another strategy is to introduce yourself to the speaker after the presentation, and ask if they have time to answer your questions. If she or he doesn’t have time ask if you can contact them.

You could also inquire if the presenter has material available, blog, book, case study, or white paper that might answer your questions.


Like I said I take copious notes and of course every single note I take is a great idea! (Said with sarcasm.) That’s why early in my career I’d find six-month-old notes buried in a desk drawer with no action taken. I had too many ideas. I was unfocused. I created decision paralysis in myself. Eventually, I learned to triage my notes. What worked best for me was to pick one action item to implement immediately, another at 30 days, and one more at 60 days. At the end of 30 days I reviewed the progress of the first action, and if it wasn’t shaping up, I’d delay the second action.

Attending an Event? Take Charge

The bottom line is you can take action. You might not be in charge of the topics. You may have no control of the presentations, but by vetting seminars, thinking ahead, and asking questions you can get what you need.

Are You a Good Networker?

I’d always considered myself an effective networker. I’m friendly, easy to talk to, and I’ve never met a stranger. However, none of that makes me a good networker – it makes me outgoing. If I wanted to be the most effective networker I could be I needed a plan. That’s how my networking workbook, Help Networking started.

My plan probably won’t be your plan. That’s why throughout the book there are worksheets, checklists, and simple CTA’s. Use these to create a networking plan that fits your needs.

If you enjoyed this you might like, Do We Really Need One More “How to Write an Elevator Pitch?” Article.

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash