Why Should You Go to a Conference and What do you Hope to Get Out of It?
Here a conference… there a conference…EVERYWHERE another conference! If you're like me, you're inundated with conference invitations. I am constantly deluged with invitations to numerous conferences; some are virtual conferences and others are in-person conferences. My inbox is flooded and, at times, it can be pretty overwhelming. It can be tempting to just hit the "delete" button to get rid of all of them. However, if I did that, I may be throwing out the proverbial baby with the bath water and, as a responsible business person, that is the last thing I'd ever want to do. In this blog, I thought I'd share my thoughts with you for sorting it all out and making the best possible decisions. After all, each of us has constraints in terms of time and money (budget) and we all need to achieve the greatest possible ROI.
My mind drifts back to elementary school, where some of the greatest lessons in life are learned. I think of my teachers who emphasized the five Ws and one H; you remember the old Who, What, Where, When, Why and How, don't you? These are the keys to effective writing/journalism and can be applied to the topic at hand to yield the best decision-making outcomes.
Who is going to be speaking? Is this a single speaker or will there be a panel of speakers? If the topic is of interest, it will make a big difference if the speaker(s) are prominent, well-respected and knowledgeable regarding the industry or subject matter to be discussed. If the topic is e-commerce, I am definitely going to be interested if Jeff Bezos is a speaker. After all, he founded Amazon, literally taking the company from his garage to being a global leader in e-commerce. You'll also want to consider "who" is going to be attending. Would this be a good networking opportunity for you?
What is the subject? Is this a timely topic for my business (e.g., does the topic pertain to items on my immediate horizon or priority "to do" list and would I directly benefit by attending)? If not, it is either of no interest whatsoever and I can rule it out completely or it is of some interest but relevant in my intermediate / long-range planning scope. If it is the latter, I may want to consider registering, if it is free, just to get the archived conference webinar and/or slides, for future reference. If it requires travel to an in-person conference, I may want to pass or there may be some of my colleagues/contacts that plan to attend and can share notes/handouts with me.
Where is the conference being held? Is this is a virtual conference / webinar or is it an in-person conference? If it is the latter, registration fees, travel costs, and all expenses associated with attendance need to be evaluated. Is this within my budget or do I have any discretionary dollars that can be allocated toward this end? I need to view both capital and time expected to be expended in light of what tangible goals and outcomes I hope to achieve by making the decision to attend.
When? Do I have a conflict? If so, and I want to attend, can I reschedule the conflicting item(s)? If the conflict cannot be reconciled, if this is a virtual conference, can I register, not attend but receive access to a recorded version, slides, etc. which I can review at my convenience.
Why? What are my clear, concise, compelling reasons to attend this particular conference? Why should I choose to either attend or not attend? A Ben Franklin balance sheet of "pros" versus "cons" can be helpful in weighing your thoughts by writing them down on paper.
How? How do I maximize the value of my takeaways from the conference? How am I going to apply what I've learned to my real-life situation? My answer to these questions is to jot down thoughts and ideas immediately, since we, as human beings, tend to forget so quickly. Sharing information gleaned from the conference with others, business associates and other important people in your life, can be invaluable; they can share their unique ideas and build upon some of the existing concepts.
In conclusion, there are so many conferences and so many reasons why it may or may not be the right thing to do to attend. You'll want to analyze each opportunity in order to make the best possible decision. Be sure to keep the five Ws and one H in mind as you go through this process and write on your whiteboard one hundred times, "My teacher was always right."
Elaine Golden, Director of Sales