You attended ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy in Denver, you went to education sessions, collected business cards and had great conversations. By now you have probably unpacked your bag and gotten back into the swing of your usual routine, but have you incorporated any of the new ideas into your day-to-day operations or had a phone call with a new connection you made? If you have, bravo! If you haven’t, keep on reading.

ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy is an event with an excess of ROI from the exhibit show floor to the education sessions to connecting with friends new and old to feeling inspired from the keynote speakers. Did you see the blog post from Sue Warfield, Director of Member Relations, on “The Human Connection?” That is exactly what ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy provides — connection. So, how do you maintain these connections and engage your newfound knowledge?

We turn to Robert Half on the 5 Things You MUST Do After Attending an Industry Conference*:

  1. Strike while the iron is still hot. Within a few days of the conference ending, follow up with those you met whom you feel could be valuable contacts.Connect on LinkedIn or send an email. The key in both cases is to write personalized — not generic — messages. Make a point to mention something related to a conversation you had with the person. And if you really bonded with someone in particular, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone.

(Use ASTRA Connect to recap the conference and share ideas!)

  1. Start putting what you learned into practice. Going to an industry conference isn’t just about collecting business cards and expanding your professional network; it’s about your professional development. Reflect on the most helpful or enlightening things you learned. What resonated with you most? How can you use that information to do your job better or faster? Did the conference make you realize that you have a skills gap or need to create a more detailed career development plan? If so, what concrete steps can you begin taking today to get up to speed or improve your work performance?

(Check out ASTRA Academy for webinars, podcasts, publications and other resources to expand your professional development in the toy industry.)

  1. Pass along your newfound knowledge. If others on your team weren’t able to attend the industry conference, share key learnings with them. Write a brief report, create a PowerPoint presentation or set up a brownbag lunch session. At minimum, share relevant handouts you received and draft an email with a bulleted list of useful takeaways and include pertinent links. (After the event, you can often find a treasure trove of helpful information on the conference website — or on the blogs or websites of those who presented.)

(Share your key takeaway sheets and handouts from the sessions. Don’t forget! All full conference attendees can access the session recordings at no additional cost via ASTRA Academy under “Resources.”)

  1. Offer feedback. If you receive a post-conference survey, fill it out. Better yet, send a note to the conference organizers to offer your praise or to provide constructive feedback on improvements you feel could be made. Also, if a conference speaker impressed or inspired you, be bold and email him or her. In addition to simply being a nice thing to do, this type of gesture can potentially lead to a valuable connection.

(ASTRA is working with Minding Your Business, Inc., a strategic consulting agency, to understand how we can better serve you. All members were sent a survey on June 14—we appreciate your support in filing this out! Your input is invaluable.)  

  1. Thank your boss for sending you. If your employer paid for you to go to the industry conference, be sure to offer your appreciation for the opportunity and reiterate the benefits of the experience. A sincere “thank you” can go a long way, particularly if you’d like to attend future conferences.

(And mark your calendars for next year’s event in Philadelphia, PA June 25-28, 2017!)

Tell us: What did you do (besides unpack) when you got home from ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy?

*Originally posted on on July 6, 2015. 

Ahren Hoffman, CTRS, CPE is the Director of Education & Training at ASTRA. Ahren has been a member of the toy industry since 2007 developing content for toys and play products, contributing to publications and actively taking part in the lecture circuit presenting to organizations and professionals in the field of child development as well as members of the toy industry. Ahren oversees the development and enhancement of education and training materials for ASTRA members to keep a pulse on topics shaping the toy industry. Contact Ahren at