Post-Conference Engagement: How to Make the Most of your Conference Experience
By: Sana F. Ali, MD
The 13th Annual Muslim Mental Health Conference was a virtual success (pun intended)!
The past year has been especially challenging, and the opportunity to be seen, to be heard, and to interact with the Muslim mental health community has been significant.
The Annual Muslim Mental Health Conference provides a space for Muslim mental health professionals and students, both domestic and international, to cultivate compassion and a sense of community. Upon conclusion of the closing remarks, we feel emotionally, spiritually and intellectually inspired, thankful, and optimistic.
Here are tangible ways to help you direct that spirited post-conference energy:
Keep the conversation going via social media. With this year’s conference conducted virtually, the speakers, organizers and attendees can be contacted directly through the Whova app.
The Whova app has a convenient button specifically to say HI and exchange contact information, linkedin, and other social media platforms. Write a personalized salutation that helps to provide context on how you two met. Follow those who interest you for continued learning and for networking opportunities in the future.
Free Recall, aka Brain Dump , is a technique to declutter and organize your thoughts. Whether you’re a devoted notetaker or not, shortly after the conference, unload all of your thoughts in writing. Flesh out any notes you did take for clarity. This would be a good time to add memory aides about speakers and those whom you interacted with for later reference.
Speaker presentations are accessible on youtube and through the Whova app. A great way to maximize your conference gains is to visit the presentations you were unable to attend and revisit the ones you were present for. In this way, you’re able to listen to many more speakers, gain more knowledge, and solidify what you recently learned.
Additionally, you can familiarize yourself with a particular speaker’s presentation prior to contacting them to discuss professional collaboration, research or mentorship opportunities.
Making connections is networking. Introducing one contact to another for their potential benefit is community building. The first two weeks after a conference are a good time to schedule meetings and continue to build momentum on your growing network.
As you build your network, look for ways to help others build their own. This demonstration of thoughtfulness and big picture mindset not only promotes positivity, it makes you memorable.
This also applies to connecting your team with other organization teams. Organizational connections and cross-collaboration yield large-scale innovation and results. The Annual Muslim Mental Health Conference is a prime example!
Reflect, then Act
Your post-conference brain dump exercise will come in handy when you’re ready to put what you’ve learned into practice. Reflect on your notes and ask yourself these questions:
- Who or what resonated with you most? Why?
- What were your expectations going into the conference?
- What could you have done to meet or exceed your own conference expectations?
- Did the conference inspire or challenge you to make changes?
Think through how you can begin to implement what you’ve learned and outline a plan of action. What are the concrete steps you can take to make improvements?
Share the Wealth
A simple email to your home organization or team that lists key learning points, useful takeaways, and pertinent links is an excellent way to share the wealth of knowledge. Not only are you putting knowledge into practice, but you are benefiting others who weren’t able to attend.
The single most important factor in maintaining the revived energy and growth post-conference is follow-through. During the conference, you may have signed up for virtual meetups, exchanged contact info with great contacts, and expressed interest in other organizations and events. The value of networking is realized in the interactions that occur after the conference. For your own sake, follow up and follow through.
Qualify, Don’t Quantify
How do you measure whether a conference is of high value? By its ability to spark a sense of belonging and community in you.
Rather than count how many speakers you were present for or how many fellow attendees you shared contact info with, focus on the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual benefits you received. The continued growth comes from cultivating that connection to your community and through active engagement.
“A Believer to another Believer is like a building whose different parts enforce one another.”-Prophet Muhammad pbuh, Sahih Al Bukhari 🤝
📢 Engage with the Muslim Mental Health Community Now 📢
The Institute for Muslim Mental Health (IMMH) is in the process of scaling up our mentorship programs.
Current Mentorship Programs:
- Work In Progress (Research based; Monthly Zoom Meeting)
- Meet the Expert (Career based; Monthly Zoom Meeting)
Future Mentorship Programs:
- Mentor Database (One to One; Summer 2022 Launch)
- Mentor Training (TBD)
— Join a leadership committee (1-2 hours/ week)
— Become a mentor, mentee
— Participate in current research and career mentorship programs
— Write a blog article
— Reach out to an IMMH board member with❓’s, 💬’s, 💡’s
About the Author:
Dr. Sana F. Ali is a clinician with a mission to advance the field of geriatric psychiatry. Her clinical fieldwork in Pakistan and the U.S. underscores her research interests in the intersection of older adult neuropsychiatric illness, Muslim community health, and healthcare delivery. Dr. Ali serves as the Director of Mentorship for the Institute for Muslim Mental Health where she champions personal and professional development, mentorship, and community for Muslim mental health providers.