Last week, a colleague at Apex HCM emailed me information about two upcoming conferences: the Selling Skills Summit: S3, July 19-20 and the Apex annual users’ conference, Align 2018, September 20-21. The invitations got me thinking about the dozens of conferences I have attended over the years. Despite the expenses, wearying travel days, and time away from my company and my family, I realized something that may surprise you. I don’t regret attending a single one of those events!
Every conference I attended resulted in either: new professional relationships, or new best practices learned, or new solutions for my old problems. At some conferences I actually walked away with all three.
My appreciation of the conference experience is far from unique. A Gallup research poll recently revealed that employees given the opportunity to attend training and conferences are twice as likely to remain at their companies throughout their entire careers. By comparison, research shows that 40 percent of employees who resign jobs cite lack of training and professional development as the primary reason. I, as a business owner, appreciate the value of conferences but apparently so do staff employees.
But, time is money and conferences require time away from the office. Specifically, time away from managing fires; time away from staff issues; time away from responding to clients. But those are all short term issues. When I reflected on my dozens of conferences attended I didn’t recall the short term costs. Rather, I thought of the many long-term benefits I gained that helped power my business over the years.
One of the top long term benefits has been the relationships I gained via conferences and industry groups. I now enjoy a great circle of colleagues that I can call to bounce ideas, ask advice and compare notes about business issues. Similarly, these colleagues frequently reach out to me. If I focused only on the short term issues, never leaving my office to attend industry events, not only would I be poorer in friendships but my business would be poorer as well.
So as you contemplate whether to attend an event, let me share five ways to maximize your ROI:
- Socialize: Take advantage of shared meals, breaks and sessions to strike up conversations with the person next to you. Have business cards at the ready or, better yet, exchange contact information electronically. I’m thoroughly convinced that the number one priority when attending conferences is to simply talk to people and build relationships.
- Keep an open mind: Great ideas can come from any direction. Be vigilant in listening to the experiences and recommendations of others. Then, bring those new ideas back to your office.
- Talk to vendors: Conference goers often avoid talking with vendors if they don’t plan to purchase. But that’s a bit short-sighted. Vendors work with scores of companies just like yours and can provide a unique perspective from their industry vantage point.
- Talk to speakers: This one is a no-brainer. Speakers are strategically sought out to present at conferences because they have experience and insight to offer. Connecting with industry leaders, experts and executives is always helpful.
- Jettison your comfort zone: Socializing with strangers may seem uncomfortable, but discussing industry issues with new people is exactly why attend conferences. I’ve never found a fellow attendant unwilling to chat about why they attended or unwilling to share their businesses experiences. You stepping out of your comfort zone can help someone else do the same.
Regardless of industry, in my experience, attending conferences, trade shows or workshops always pays off in the long run. As I said, I’m yet to regret ever attending.
This Apex blog post guest authored by Rebecca Yinko, Managing Partner of Payroll Solutions in Madison, Wisconsin. Rebecca can be reached at email@example.com.