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How to get the most from an open learning event

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Helen Anderson
Helen Anderson

I'm not known for being the life and soul of the party. Being outgoing and gregarious just isn't me. I like to be in a corner, reading, writing or reflecting. Yep, I'm an introvert. But this doesn't stop me attending events. I like to learn and I like to listen to folk. I find people fascinating and can spend ages observing and listening. I'll often pick up more than most but I won't say what I know, not immediately anyway - I like to think about it.

In my day job, I promote knowledge sharing, particularly in the policy profession, and this year, I’m working on the New UK Government theme for CS Live. The events are a great opportunity to get people talking to people and sharing what they know. And I need to lead by example, get over my introvert inhibitions and make sure I get the best out of the brilliant sessions which people are putting together.

So here are some of my top tips which help me prepare, gather my thoughts and aid my motivation. Feel free to steal to make sure the sessions work for you.

Before the event – learning before doing

  • Have a clear purpose for attending, think about how you might measure what you got out of it (new contacts made, things you have learned etc) and be aware of the costs (both financial and time) of attending so you know if it was worth it!
  • Have a plan/approach for networking – who will be there, who do you plan to meet with and why?
  • Think about what you want to learn by identifying gaps in your knowledge; consider questions you might ask; join in pre-event conversations e.g. on the CS Live website, Civil Service Yammer or Linkedin Groups and Twitter
  • Tell colleagues you’re attending CS Live. Ask them what they would like you to find out about, or the questions they would like asked, if they were able to attend.

At the event – learning whilst doing

  • Have a plan to capture and record key points, learning and implications for yourself, colleagues and your organisation – this can be as simple as taking notes, collecting handouts or copies of slides. I often use the notes function on my smartphone and then send this to my work account for tidying before circulating to colleagues.
  • Remind yourself of your ‘learning before doing’ checklist and ensure that these guide your use of time and focus
  • Talk to others at the event to find out what they are getting from the event – we all have our own preferred learning style, so you may find others are getting a different experience – and share your experience with others too!
  • You will have chosen to attend the event for a specific reason, others will have as well. Why not use this as an opening to talk to those at the event – their knowledge may help you in your work.
  • Follow the event on twitter and see how others are reacting to the content and speakers.

Follow up – learning after doing

  • Feed back on the event to colleagues. Focus on what you found interesting, what you learnt and what impact that will have on future actions.
  • Consider how your new-found knowledge and experience will help your department or colleagues in other departments. Consider how you can share your knowledge wider - posting an internal blog, by holding a ‘lunch and learn’, or by writing a short article for the in-house newsletter

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  1. Comment by Chika Okwesa posted on

    I am so glad to have come across your post. Fantastic advice and very thoughtful of you. Looking forward to CSL 2015.
    Thank you Helen

  2. Comment by Chris Collison posted on

    Great stuff Helen - well done for coming out of your shell and blogging your experience and insights.