A few weeks ago, I participated in Oregon’s annual statewide conference organized by the Oregon Conservation Education and Assistance Network (OCEAN). Holding the event in the middle of Oregon probably helped boost the number of attendees to 300 people representing soil and water conservation districts, watershed councils, and various agencies.
I’ve attended just about every CONNECT conference for the past nine years. This was, to me, the best CONNECT conference ever.
I might feel that way because I participated on a three-person team to develop and deliver a great track on wildfire. My cohorts were Jim Cathcart, manager of the West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, and Jeremy Baker, Senior Rural Conservationist for the East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District and the President of OCEAN.
And I might feel that way because my district (Clackamas SWCD) helped sponsor NACD’s new Pacific Region Representative in attending CONNECT. Ariel Rivers made many connections at CONNECT. She was able to talk about NACD’s programs and partnerships several times, helping to educate Oregon folks about the value of NACD. I was privileged to introduce her to attendees at the first dinner event.
People and relationships matter
The longer I’m in the conservation district world, the more I realize how small our community is. I mean that in a good way. We know a lot more people than we might think we do. People talk. People talk about each other. Your reputation depends heavily on the quality of relationships you develop.
Every year before CONNECT, I tell my staff to go to this annual conference with a plan. Know the relationships you need to reinforce. Identify some new people you don’t know, and invest time in getting to know them. Help others feel welcome and be good to each other. Know which sessions you want to attend. Create value in everything you do.
Invest in yourself before/after the meeting
I’m trying something new this year…at least it is new for me. I used to rush to get to a multi-day meeting, arriving just in time, and leaving as soon as the event ended. I would arrive stressed and leave tired, and all of that baggage came home with me and sometimes made it to work, too.
This year, I’m trying to schedule my arrival a day early, or my departure a day later, depending on when the event starts and ends. I want to be fully present at the event and that means being rested. I want to have context for the landscape I’m in and that means getting out to see the countryside.
Share what your learned
I make three kinds of notes during these meetings. The first kind is just notations about the content I’m hearing. The second is reminders that I capture off to the side; these are things that pop up in my mind that I don’t want to lose track of. And the third is notes that I write to myself.
The notes to myself I usually encase in angled brackets like this one from my CONNECT 2019 notes: <The Oregon Post-Wildfire Flood Playbook is a potential resource to create post-fire plans before a fire occurs.> (Find the Oregon Post-Wildfire Flood Playbook here.)
When I later see a comment inside angled brackets, I know that the presenter didn’t say that. I know that I was talking to myself. Taken in the context of the content notes, this method helps me remember my thought process at that moment in time. Sometimes I review notes that are several years old, and I always pause when I see something in angled brackets — it was important enough for me then to capture it, so revisiting it helps me remember more clearly what I was thinking.
When you later review your notes, those notes to yourself are probably where you’ll find key takeaways that you may want to share with others. Sharing helps others, but it also helps you through the conversations that follow. Also, you are leading by example when you step out on a limb and share what you learned.
Follow up and follow through
When you get back, send notes to the presenters you learned from. Send thank you notes to the people who represent key relationships where you invested energy in creating or renewing that those relationships.
If you made promises, now is the time to follow through on those commitments. One promise I made was to myself: <Share what you learned!>
How do you prepare and proceed?
How do you prepare for these long meetings? What do you do once you are there? Do you follow-up afterwards, and if so, how? Sharing what you do helps us all improve!
Categories: Pacific Director Blog