Tips to Maximize Your Heartland Learning Experience

Posted on in Education/Training

By Dorothy de Souza Guedes, VGM Education

There’s still time to implement a few quick strategies to get the most out of Heartland Conference 2016 learning opportunities. By taking the time to thoughtfully pre-plan, your business will benefit – before, during and after the event – from time spent at Heartland.

Before: Plan your options

Discuss how the entire team can benefit from one or more members attending Heartland Conference, and set specific goals for each. Reluctant attendees will be more likely to bring back valuable information if they have clear goals. 

“Spend some time planning which sessions and speakers you think you can gain the most information from and who can help you reach your set goals,” suggests Jill Blaser, design and development manager, VGM Education. “Look at sessions based on tracks to determine what best fits your needs.”

Go beyond the course title. Visit the Speakers & Courses page of the Heartland website to read the course or session descriptions and author bios, said Laura Taylor, VGM Education’s Heartland education coordinator.

“The learning objectives for each session give a lot of details about what to expect from a course,” Taylor said.

Not at Heartland for the education?

It’s not all about the sessions: it’s also about vendor booths and building relationships, said Kelly Krueger, vice president, VGM Education.

For networking goals, determine who it is you need to talk to before the conference. A list of Committed Attendees is on the Heartland Conference website. The list shows VGM member organizations, rather than individuals, registered to attend.

“Set up meetings now if there are people you know you want to connect with,” said suggests Jill Blaser, design and development manager, VGM Education. “Be proactive. Don’t leave it to chance that you’ll meet during the week.”

If products and services are a priority, review the exhibitors list for this year, and prioritize who you need to meet with, Blaser said. Use the Map My Show technology in the VGM Heartland mobile app.

Find a session description that appeals to you? Download and print or save to your tablet session handouts to use as a reference during the presentation. Or, you can do all of this through the VGM Heartland mobile app. Sessions can change last-minute, so always have a backup plan.

Before you leave for Heartland, schedule a meeting time for the Monday after so you can share the information before it leaves you, advised Kelly Krueger, vice president, VGM Education.

During: Divide and conquer

Most Heartland courses are approved for CEUs by several accrediting bodies. Are there specific areas of education you need for accreditation or recertification? Before you sit through a session, make sure that it meets those requirements. Not sure if a course offers the CEUs you need? Ask at the VGM Education CEU desk next to the registration desk on the main floor of the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center.

Take notes and plan to share with your team two to three nuggets from each session attended.

“If you’re sending more than one person, divide and conquer so that nobody attends the same session,” Krueger said. “For the important sessions, make sure to send someone who is good at knowledge sharing and taking notes.”

Only send more than one person to a session if someone going isn’t good at knowledge sharing, Krueger said.

After: Information sharing

At the meeting scheduled in advance for the Monday after Heartland, create an action plan and an implementation plan – with deadlines – that include SMART goals, said Kruger. She defines SMART goals as Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic and Timeline.

Want to retain more of what you’ve learned? Memory experts advise viewing session notes two days after then again at two weeks and two months. You can also reinforce what you’ve learned at Heartland through a variety of VGM educational offerings.

“We offer the level of quality in education that you find at Heartland year-round through VGMU,” Blaser said. “Our courses and special programs are based on our members’ needs.”

What you learn next week can benefit your business not only during the conference but also throughout the year. With that in mind, VGM Education’s associates focus on Heartland planning year-round as part of its overall education for members.

“Once the current conference is over, that’s when we being to plan for next year,” said Taylor. “We take a look at the speaker evaluations and attendee feedback and begin to put our plan into place. We’re also responsive to changes in the industry that happen throughout the year.”

What you need to know

It’s not too late to register for Heartland Conference 2-16. Register Here.

View all Speakers & Courses online; sort by Speaker, Date or Categories.