Make the most of your next conference by implementing the 4 P’s

By Brian Gordon | December 7, 2004 | Last updated on December 7, 2004
3 min read

(December 2004) Planning to attend an upcoming seminar or conference? Follow these common-sense guidelines to help maximize the benefits you derive from the next seminar or conference you attend.

I call these guidelines the 4 P’s: Prepare, Participate, Personal Challenge and Post-evaluation.

1. Prepare

When I deliver one of my educational or investment seminars, I try to gauge my audience and tailor my delivery specifically to meet their needs. In other words, I make sure I "know my clients." I then identify the key learning objectives that I want to articulate.

As a seminar attendee, you need to actively prepare for your session in a similar way — before you step in the room.

Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Why am I going to this seminar?
  • What is the link to my business?
  • What business-building opportunities do I foresee by attending this seminar?

Take a look at the key learning objectives and the "what you will learn by attending this seminar" material that is promoted by the host.

Set goals that are measurable. For example, networking goals could include the number of new business cards exchanged, while product knowledge or professional development goals could include the number of new ideas identified.

Once you have your game plan in place, it’s time to act on it.

2. Participate

Don’t sit at the back of your seminar. Join the crowd, mingle, network, introduce yourself when you sit down at a table, distribute and collect business cards. Listen to the presentation and take notes.

Remember, you are there because you want to build your business and expand your personal skill set.

A simple technique that will give everyone in the room an opportunity to see you, know who you are, and quickly form an impression of your capabilities, is to ask questions.

Be careful, however, as this technique can backfire if you don’t use it professionally and are not prepared in advance. Make sure you have something intelligent to say. Start by introducing yourself, your firm and title, and then ask your question. (I used this technique once at another advisor’s seminar, and I can’t tell you how many leads I generated that evening!)

By participating — networking, taking notes, asking questions, etc. — you will find that the seminar experience presents a much greater number of business development opportunities.

3. Personal Challenge

After the seminar, challenge yourself to commit to following through on two or three ideas presented at the seminar. For example, you could follow through on product knowledge, or practice management, or you could initiate correspondence with your new contacts.

Write these goals down, so that they become priorities in your business development.

After a reasonable period of time, say three to six months, revisit your written notes and see how many of these challenges you actually followed through on.

4. Post-evaluation

Now that you have actively prepared for your seminar, forced yourself to participate and challenged yourself to follow through on a few activities, you need to evaluate whether or not your actions made you money by building your business.

Once you have identified an action as a profitable business-building activity, add it to your list of "things to do at a seminar or conference" list.

After attending several seminars or conferences, you should have discovered a number of these profitable business-building activities that you can reap the rewards from again and again.

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Brian Y. Gordon, CFA, MBA, FCSI is a professor of accounting and finance in the Faculty of Business at Centennial College. He is also managing director of Oliver’s Seminars, an independent provider of financial industry exam preparation courses, investment sales training and specialty learning workshops. Exam questions and comments are welcome at


Brian Gordon