Thursday, 10 January 2008

Getting the most from external training

So you've got past the reasons not to train and are about to go into the outisde world. How can you ensure that you benefit as much as possible from the opportunity?

One way you will benefit is by coming back inspired. This may not in fact because you have learnt a lot; time away from the office and its day-to-day crises is very refreshing in itself, and it is also a good chance to think about thorny long term issues. It is worth taking some reading or writing that you have been putting off delaing with 'until you get a chance': you may not in fact deal with it, but at least it's there if you feel like it. It is also worth reading the literarture about the event you're attending, so you are clear about arrangements, and can also think about which speakers you wish to hear, which attendees you might want to link up with. This is all 'train work', and needs doing, but it is also important to arrive fresh and energetic, so you needn't feel guilty if an early start has left you unable to do more than read the paper on the journey.

It is easy to forget that travel and training can be quite hard physical work. It's no surprise that by Day 3 of a conference many attendees are falling asleep. It's a good idea to take water and fruit to suuplment the coffee and biscuits which will no doubt be supplied as a staple. It's alos a good idea to get out into the fresh air: walk in the grounds or a local park rather than attend a session you're not interested in.

And while you will hope that speakers will be clear and interesting and organised, you certainly won't be completely enthralled all the time. Don't beat yourself up about this. Even the worst speaker will probably set off some train of thought (even if it's only "I must make sure my team learn to give talks properly"); I note down such ideas around the edges of the page, with action points marked with a *.

Then on the way back these notes can be reviewed to see whether they make any sense (both as legible text and as intellectual content), and back in the office you can easily work through the action points before filing them.

If you learned stuff, say so. There's nothing more likely to smooth the next application like the demonstrable effectiveness of the previous one.

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