Why Preparation is Key: Making the Most of Your Industry Conference Experience
This article originally appeared on daveybickford.com
It’s no secret that professional conferences can benefit your company and your career. Nor is it a secret that they can, in some cases, be a waste of time and money. Measuring ROI for attendance is a hot topic, and detailed formulas have been proposed – but to get the most out of the forthcoming Queensland Mining Expo (QME), a complicated calculation may not be the best approach. Perhaps a few simple ideas will bear out a better result.
First, think of the money it costs to attend QME. The registration fees, the travel costs, the living expenses – your company’s investment might not be outlandish, but it’s not insignificant either. How will it pay off in the end?
The answer is networking and knowledge. You’re attending QME in order to share ideas, advice and contacts. The object is not merely to recover your money and time, but to grow it through strategic collaboration and brand awareness. Mining companies and METS are known for using controlled processes to acquire vital resources. If we see our colleagues at QME as a vital resource (which they are), we naturally gravitate toward a targeted approach.
Stacking the odds in your favour
Julia Palmer, founder and CEO of the networking strategy firm Relatus, is expert in leveraging human connections for professional growth. “It’s about time we looked at the entire process a bit better.” She says. “A physical presence isn’t going to cut it. Nor is treating it like a chore.”
Indeed, it is a common error amongst conference attendees to show up at the event and expect good things to happen automatically. This virtually never works. The first step toward a productive QME is a proactive and targeted approach.
For starters, find out as much as you can about the conference. Study the agenda, search for relevant hashtags on Twitter, and make a list of attendees you want to connect with. Then, consider how you might relate to people on a professional and human level. Look at their hobbies, university affiliations, and other publicly listed information. Read their company’s recent press releases. Take note of specific projects they’ve been working on.
“Dedicate time out to identify who you want to meet there.” Ms. Palmer says. “Review the directory and program, and highlight your priorities. Utilise any business matching offerings with the organisers. Get your details on the website or event app (if possible) so that people can find you too. Most importantly, target 2-3 people and make contact prior to the event, so that you can arrange breakfasts and dinners around the conference schedule.”
Another common gaffe, according to Palmer, is attending a professional event and gravitating continuously toward people you already know. “It’s easy to stick to who we know, but what will that achieve?” She says. “Outside of your comfort zone is where the magic happens. Stretch yourself to meet new people, try new things, and experience all there is on offer.”
Ms. Palmer also encourages attendees to offer value without expecting anything in return. This idea may seem counter-intuitive, but if you keep a close eye on experienced networkers, you’ll notice a clear emphasis on giving over receiving. This approach is more likely to jumpstart the collaborative process and open new doors.
“Building in-person credibility lets you differentiate yourself from all those other online businesses out there.” Palmer adds. “The better your reputation and the higher your profile, the more opportunities are likely to come your way.”
Obviously, that doesn’t mean you give away proprietary secrets – but professional value can take the form of a helpful research note, a specific networking contact, or the acknowledgment of a job well done. All you need to remember is that when you engage colleagues in a targeted and meaningful way, it makes a positive impact – even if you can’t immediately quantify the value.
What can you offer at QME, and who will take value from it?
In a massive quarry filled with valuable ore, you wouldn’t show up and start blasting rock without a plan. You would assess the site, develop a strategy, and exercise control over the process. The quarry of knowledge and resources at QME is no different. Heading into the event with a targeted approach will lead to superior outcomes – and it won’t make those lucky connections any less likely.
We will be tweeting from QME over the entire event so make sure you follow us for all the live action and insights.