Late winter to early spring is the traditional annual meeting and conference time for many dairy groups. University of Minnesota Extension educator Chuck Schwartau offers the following tips for getting the most out of meetings:
People hold back from asking questions in large groups for a variety of reasons. "In some cases, it's just basic shyness,” Schwartau says. "But sometimes it's being afraid to let other people in on the fact that you don't know everything about a particular subject.”
Schwartau suggests thinking of your question as a service to others in the audience. "Chances are, if you're wondering about something the speaker has said, other people in the group are wondering the same thing,” he says. "I start my presentations by reminding the audience there is no such thing as a dumb question. The dumb thing is to walk away from knowledge when it's there for the taking.”
Let new ideas simmer.
It's human nature to either label a new concept as ridiculous or accept it as gospel. Making a snap judgment in either direction is an obstacle to learning, Schwartau notes. "If something strikes you either way, make a mental note to assess it later at a time when you're not processing a lot of new information. Sometimes new ideas bounce off the wall. Sometimes, though, they stick.”
Break periods between conference sessions offer a great oppor-tunity to talk with other producers who are facing similar problems and challenges. They can also provide an opportunity to discuss topics with leading thinkers and innovators from the industry. "People often find they learn more during the breaks or the social gatherings than they did from the formal presentations,” Schwartau says.
Exchange contact information with the people you meet so you can keep learning from each other once the conference is over.
Taking an employee, a member of your farm management team or a neighbor to a conference with you is another way to maximize the experience.
"After the conference, get together with the others who attended and discuss the presentations,” Schwartau says. "Chances are that even if you attended the same sessions and heard the same speakers, you and the others will interpret what was said differently. Your discussions may result in new ideas and approaches or a better understanding of what was presented.”