For many sectors, autumn and winter are peek exhibition and conference season. But is it all about sales or can we learn from these too? Can professionals learn at conferences or they just a waste of time?
In almost every sector there is a relevant trade show and conference.
Often these exhibitions are free to attend. But the cost is to have people try to sell to us as visitors. Well, the good ones do. The bad ones just sit or stand and seem to avoid eye contact at all costs!
Many of these trade shows also offer free seminars where exhibitors run 30-minute presentations on a business topic. Often where their solution is the solution to the problem. Yes, we know its a sell, but we can still learn from these. Sometimes it is about style and delivery, sometimes use of visual aids. sometimes its the content too!. But there is always something valuable to be gained from a free seminar.
These are often a premium product. But they are set up for us to learn. Typically a 45-minute presentation, 15 minutes Q&A and then an opportunity to network.
It is easy to attend these events, sit and hear the presentation, but not really learn anything. We have great intentions but return to the office or workplace the next day and continue the way we were last week.
Getting the most from a conference or other learning opportunity
It sounds simple but the real key is something most of us just do not do.
Know why you are going and set 2 or 3 goals
Sounds simple – Goal setting is important, know why you are going and set 2 or 3 goals. But many go because it is the thing to do. Some because they are expected to go. Some because they have not been before and think its a great idea. This is a good start. But how will you measure the success of the event? The number of business cards you have collected? The number of freebies? How drunk you got at the networking event? (that would never happen.. would it?)
In their book Craven and Harris – Check-in Strategy Journal the authors ask business leaders to plan and reflect. Some of us plan, few of us reflect and even fewer use the reflection to plan our next activities and priorities.
on a scale of 1-10 how has this week been?
What would +1 look like
What has worked well this week?
This week would have been even better if…
What I gave to others is…
What I received from others is…
What I appreciated…
In the book, they have different tools for different phases. But let’s just look at this. If we were completing this at the end of the week we attended a conference what would we write? what would we need to write for it to be a successful event? These reflections in isolation may appear “soft”, but in the context of the book the, e reflections are against solid life and business. Taking the time to reflect on how much that event added to your ability to achieve your goals is a big thing. For some, it will mean that they no longer attend such events. For many others, it could change the priority of learning and networking.
Can professionals learn at conferences and exhibitions?
Are they just expensive jollies or opportunities for those best prepared to gain an advantage? I have been both individuals. In the past at some events I have just turned up to “see what I can learn”, at others I have had clear objectives. For me the most successful events have been ones where:
- I have 2 or 3 simple goals
- I know how I will measure them
- I reflect after the learning (often in a blog)
- I have an open mind as to what else I will gain, and when I hear something of value that was not part of the goal, I write it down in my reflections plan when to use that new learning
What are you planning to learn and hw are you intending to use the learning from the next event you are participating in?
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