This is a guest blog by Karen Holst – more info at the bottom of this post.

Designing the most productive and inspiring experience

Corporate innovation is a heady topic. There are many layers and roles, trying to make a more significant impact and innovate from within the larger organization.

To catalyze and mobilize innovators and leaders of innovation programs, the Intrapreneurship Conference (now Innov8rs) is an event that brings thoughtful people together. The topics, speakers, and events are inspiring and full of both in-the-trenches tactical tips, and useful 30,000-foot view on strategic thinking.

This unique conference requires a thoughtful approach. You will get more out of an intrapreneurship conference if you take a few steps beforehand, to ensure your initiatives get set, and goals get met.

People are busy, especially leaders taking charge of innovating within their organizations. What are things that someone attending #Innov8rs could do beforehand to prepare?

Outline Intentions

The first step, before arriving at the conference, is to identify your intentions and goals. Reflect on what you need, your customer or client needs, and your company or employee needs. What projects are you working on and where are you stuck? What can you learn or who can you meet that can help meet you where you are and help tackle your problems?

One conference attendee shared his strategy:

“Come with a clear learning goal in mind. Why are you here? What do you want to learn? Then, submerge yourself in many conversations with curiosity and listening. By combining these two things you are destined for ‘structured serendipity’.” Lars Crama, INNOVATORS INC.

Brant Cooper, an author, one of the speakers, and CEO of Moves the Needle, urges attendees to take that thinking and apply it to corporate strategy, “What is your company doing that is innovative? How does innovation fit into the corporate strategy? Discuss these questions with leadership and then ask yourself, what do you hope to get out of the conference that benefits corporate strategy, both near term and long term?”

Schedule Work Time

The second step is to pencil in time for checking email, responding to calls, and any other work activities that would pull you away from the conference.

By planning for these “breaks”, you will permit yourself to focus on the information and conversations occurring at the conference, rather than constantly checking your phone.

Avi Mizrahi, a Marketing Technology Director at Hudson’s Bay Company, shared that for the Intrapreneurship Conference, he informed his team that he would be checking and responding to emails at the end of the day.

“I had hoped to disconnect for a couple of days, to focus on the conference completely but we had a product launch that meant I needed to be ‘on call.’ My team knew that I would be responding to emails in the evening and if something was urgent to send a text.” Mizrahi shared with me over lunch.

Getting the most out of a conference requires listening and learning. By scheduling your work time in advance, you allow yourself to put your distractions aside and focus on why you are there.

Be Deliberate About Networking

One of the biggest advantages of the Intrapreneurship Conference is all the incredible thought leaders together at one event. Creating lasting conversations and relationships requires strategic networking before, during, and after the conference.

Before the Conference

Before attending a conference, take a look at the speaker list and start following them on Twitter and LinkedIn. You can begin to connect in advance and kickoff your conversations before the conference even begins. Share shoutouts about topics you are excited about and where you are ready to learn.

In LinkedIn, see where you connect and overlap, from there you will understand how your paths may have already crossed through projects or work. The goal is to fuel your networking with authentic relationships; not to spam speakers and attendees with your questions and requests.

During the Conference

Recalling all the great introductions and people you interact with can be challenging. If you can collect business cards from those that you meet and talk with, you will have all the information “in hand” that you need to follow up and keep the relationship going.

However, not everybody is carrying around their business cards or willing to hand them over with each conference interaction. In this case, for people that I engaged with, I asked to take a photo of the conference attendee’s name badge, to keep track of who I spoke to.

Later that day, I would review who I met. Seeing the photos in chronological order helped me to remember the name/title from the badge with the conversation and gave me enough information for me to go to LinkedIn to network with the individual further.

After the Conference

It goes without saying, but one of the richest opportunities from a conference is to continue talking with your fellow attendees and speakers. One obvious place is to follow up with emails and LinkedIn connections, periodically checking in to see how work is progressing over time.

Bethany Halbreich, a conference attendee from PepsiCo, puts a lot of thought and intention into tracking her interactions.

“For the past few years, I’ve kept a spreadsheet of the connections I feel have been meaningful in some way. In one of the columns, I tag topics discussed and often use it to search through and fully understand my network. After I attend any conference, I update the spreadsheet and continue to be amazed by the interconnectedness of my network.”

It can be easy to put the conference follow ups on the backburner and attend your job responsibilities when you return to work. Break the urge to get to it another day, and put in a little time to keep engaged beyond the event.

In the end, Intrapreneurship Conference is a place where you can engage and co-create the value and conversations.

It is hard to articulate the rich conversations that come from the event unless you have been in attendance. It’s a beneficial event that will further your work, and the value of doing a little upfront thinking will pay dividends over time.

One of the keynote speakers summed it up best:

“I tend to approach all learning experiences with an open mind and a sponge. If we’re not prepared to learn and to shift our thinking, even slightly, the experience will be wasted.” Ken Tencer, ICD.D, Chief Executive Officer of SpyderWorks.

About the author:

Karen Holst co-founded an ed tech startup and after an acquisition left to launch new products with the California Department of Education, heading up Educational Technology. After helping to innovate in the public sector, Karen joined IDEO to launch IDEO U, a learning platform that teaches and trains organizations how to innovate and grow. You can connect with Karen via Twitter or through her writing at Start Within.