Winning the Internet

How to get the most out of a training, conference or webinar

After a great run, the Winning the Internet blog has been retired. However, you can still keep in touch with New Media Mentors here.

Have you ever attended a totally inspiring and energizing training, webinar, or conference, only to return to “business as usual” once you get back to your desk? If so, you’re not alone! This is the reason we use a learning-by-doing model for our New Media Mentors program. We’ve found that a training session can be a great introduction, but you’ve really got to put pen to paper if you want to implement new things and change the way your organization works.

Here are a few tips for getting the most out of trainings, conferences and webinars, using a learning-by-doing mentality.

Soak Up the Info

  • Take notes
    Take notes during the session, even if the presenter has given you handouts. Taking notes helps you remember what you’re learning, allows you to come back to it later, and gives you an opportunity to jot down any ideas that pop into your head as you listen. If you have any “we should definitely do XYZ” moments during the session, be sure to write down those action items and star or highlight them somehow.
  • Ask questions
    If you find that you’re struggling to see how you can apply the concepts presented to your particular organization or situation, be sure to ask at the end. If you’re worried that your question is just too specific to ask in front of everyone else, hang out for a few minutes after the session and talk to the trainer individually. These extra couple of minutes could be what make the rest of the session worth your time.
  • Take down the presenter’s contact info
    If the presenter offers up their contact info, write it down! If they don’t, ask for it. Most people are willing to answer follow-up questions after the session.

Whatever you do, don’t stop now! The next few steps are a critical part of actually implementing what you’ve learned.

Do Stuff!

  • Break down your notes into steps
    The first step for actually doing stuff is to go back through your notes and break down what you need to do to implement what you learned in the session. Push yourself to break down as many steps as you need, even if some of them are a bit vague or require information gathering. For example, steps from a session on email testing could look like this:
  1. Review email results from Q1 and look for metrics that could be improved
  2. Develop a theory or two about how we could improve each metric
  3. Translate theories into a testing plan that lays out what we will test and when
  4. Execute the testing plan
  5. Review results—have things improved?
  • Set deadlines
    Set a deadline for each of your steps. Make them aggressive, but realistic. (If you’re too easy on yourself you could be tempted to drag things out and drop them altogether.) Even better—share your deadlines with your boss or a coworker that will hold you accountable.
  • Do it! Ask questions if you need to.
    Work through the steps systematically and report back to others on your progress. If you find you’re getting stuck on a step, ask questions. If there’s no one internally that can help you, reach out to the person that ran the training session initially, or just think of another organization that’s doing this well and contact them. We setup these kinds of conversations all the time as part of New Media Mentors and have found that folks are almost willing to help a fellow activist.

That’s it! With any luck, you’ll be looking at “business as usual” in your rear view mirror.


About Melissa Foley

Melissa is the Director of Training and Mentoring for Netroots Foundation and New Media Mentors. She aims to use her MBA + nonprofit background to teach organizations to use new media tools strategically.

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