Pay attention, network, and plan accordingly when attending professional events
An industry conference is often thought of as a great meeting place for vendors, which is true, but contractors can also gain valuable insight that can stay with them for their entire careers.
Every conference is different in some respects, but there is a general blueprint to how these things work, as presentations are given, booths are displayed, and the opportunity to network is ever-present.
That being said, there are ways for contractors to ensure they get their money’s worth at these events and gain valuable knowledge and insight into the industry that isn’t always readily available in their local or regional bubbles.
PAY ATTENTION TO THE PRESENTATIONS
This point may at first seem obvious, but the unfortunate reality is that many conference attendees treat speakers and presentations as a chance to doze off or check their fantasy football scores.
Checking out the latest and greatest products on display at the manufacturers’ respective booths is fun, interesting, and an important part of the experience, but don’t overlook presentations simply to get to the shiny, new toys section of the conference.
These presentations can be an opportunity to discover new technologies, hear from industry leaders on their best practices and lessons learned, and maybe even grant you a starting point for a conversation later on in the conference.
Also, keep in mind many presentations will be available online at a conference or company website after the event, so you can go back and refresh on the key points that were made by a speaker.
NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK
If you’re going to attend an industry conference, then you must be willing to shake some hands and talk with other contractors, distributors, and manufacturer’s representatives. It’s an adage that has been hammered home a million times, but it’s vitally important to network, network, network.
This doesn’t mean you have to meet everyone else in attendance, but don’t cling to the small group of people you may know and speak to no one else.
Instead, use (the typically complimentary) lunch to talk to a few contractors about some of their best business practices. Make the lunch hour a platform to exchange ideas, and don’t be afraid to learn from your peers. There are tons of great ideas inside the collective minds of contractors across the country, and a conference is a great venue for sharing some of them.
Similarly, if possible, make contact with some of those speakers you so eagerly listened to during the event. Let them know what you thought of their presentations, and give them some feedback, regardless whether it’s good or bad.
PLAN OUT WHAT YOU CAN
The agenda for a conference is mapped out and locked in months before the event actually takes place. So, before you touch down at the venue and stare aimlessly around wondering where to go, try to plan out each day of your trip.
I’ve seen people get up and walk out of a session for no reason other than they were in the wrong place or didn’t feel like that session was useful to them.
There are probably going to be far too many presentations and breakout sessions for you to attend, anyway, but by going to the conference with a plan in mind, you can ensure you get to the most relevant items on your list.
You probably don’t want to be staring at PowerPoint after PowerPoint, so try to organize your schedule to have presentations separated by time dedicated to visiting manufacturers’ booths, talking shop with fellow contractors, attending breakout sessions, touring whatever facilities are available, and doing anything else that may be a part of the conference.
Maybe you will even find some time to check that fantasy football score.
Publication date: 10/05/2015