Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Networking Catalyst". He regularly speaks at industry conventions and trade shows where he inspires the audience (and vendors) to maximize their participation at the event. One of the top reasons people attend business conferences is for the "Networking Opportunities", and yet once there they fail to create connections that will have any meaningful impact on their career. Thom sets the tone for the culture of the conference which becomes the foundation for a more meaningful set of interactions.
Maximize Your Conference (Part 1)
Know Your Purpose
by Thom Singer
There are many reasons that business professionals attend their industry conferences, conventions and trade shows: Learning new information, networking, maintaining skills levels, getting continuing education credits, viewing new products, discovering new trends, attending the parties, getting away from office, to present new ideas, participating in trade show, hearing great keynote speakers, building name recognition, visiting with top clients / prospects, meeting competitors, looking for a new job, etc....
Any of these reasons are legitimate, but to get the most out of your participation in a conference, you must be honest with yourself about why you are attending. There is a sizable investment of money and time that is necessary to go to the event, and thus is you do not have a clear purpose, you will never know if you achieved your return on investment.
A clear purpose helps you to make the hard choices that come with attending a large conference. Which breakout sessions to attend become clear, as does the amount of time you spend walking the trade show floor, networking, attending social events, sleeping, etc....
A friend attended his industry's big annual conference with the goal of assessing the trade show (he was considering having a booth in the future) and finding one new idea for his company. He had never attended before and had heard conflicting reports about the value that came from participating at the event.
Before he arrived he had also pre-scheduled meetings with some vendors, friendly competitors, and customers who he know would be present.
His experience at the trade show was a disaster. He did not like the way the booths were arranged and he found no useful ideas that would help his company. He did not meet any new vendors that interested him. His purpose of discovery was achieved, albeit with negative results. However, his pre-set meetings were all successful, and made the investment to fly across the country worthwhile.
If he attends in the future he knows his purpose will be to have face-to-face meetings with existing contacts (having so many people from one industry in a city at the same time is a great bonus). His attending one time before being a booth sponsor also saved him a lot of money and frustration.
I believe that attending industry events are an important part of being successful in your business. But to experience real benefits from a conference you must know why you are there and what you expect from your participation.
Before you register for a conference meet with your whole team (those attending and those staying at the office) and discuss a how you and the company can gain from sending one or more people. Decide who will attend and why they are the best choices to represent the organization. Identify the purpose of participation and define the actions they will take while in the city where the conference will take place. The more clear you are about the "what and why" the more success you will have from the attending a conference.
Have A Great Day.