If you want to strengthen your professional network, skills and knowledge, making time to attend industry conferences can be a great strategy
As a business professional, attending an industry conference can be a valuable opportunity to learn from experts, network with peers, and stay current with the latest industry trends and innovations. Whether attending in person or virtually, these events provide a unique chance to gather insights, ideas, and best practices that can help you stay ahead of the competition.
Below, 15 Fast Company Executive Board members share some of the big benefits you can gain from attending an annual industry conference, from creating new partnerships to learning new information about your industry. Consider their insights the next time you hear of an upcoming event you may want to attend.
1. THERE IS VALUE IN REAL-LIFE INTERACTIONS.
Now that we are returning to in-person events, the biggest takeaway I have is the value of reconnecting in person. Virtual platforms are convenient to have at our disposal when needed—and to reach a wider audience—but they can’t fully replace the interactions you are able to have in person at an event by feeding off the energy in a room or being able to read someone’s full body language. – Covell Adams, The Structured Finance Association
2. LISTENING TO OTHERS’ ACHIEVEMENTS IS INSPIRING.
I recently attended Adobe Summit, a partner of BlastX Consulting. I met so many amazing people across industries and geographies. I listened and learned about their challenges and achievements when growing their businesses. This was validating and invaluable to my own needs. – Brian Mcintosh, BlastX Consulting
3. ONE-ON-ONES PROVIDE NEW INSIGHT.
Doing a little bit of pre-work and scouting before the conference is important. I get value in setting up several one-on-ones throughout a conference (or leaving open time during the conference for this). That is where I get a lot of value in learning more rather than surface knowledge on a panel or presentation. – Marc Butterfield, First National Bank of Omaha (FNBO)
4. NEW PARTNERSHIPS STRENGTHEN YOUR BUSINESS.
Industry conferences can open you up to making strategic partnerships that strengthen your company. My approach at these conferences is to show up in a visually powerful way (booth design is key), bring my team with me to maximize connections and conversations, and actively look for opportunities to grow the business with every moment of engagement. – Ryan Carrol, Wealth Assistants
5. SHARING CHALLENGES IS VITAL.
For me, attending an in-person conference earlier this year was energizing after three years of being almost entirely online. The biggest takeaway for me was the power of connecting with clients, industry practitioners, and leaders who are leading their organizations through the multiple challenges we all face today. These challenges include the economy, the future of work, and the continuing impact of the pandemic. – Craig Gorsline, Avanade
6. INTENTIONAL NETWORKING LEADS TO SUCCESS.
A big takeaway from our most recent international conference was that success is in planning and connections. Although there are great sessions, intentional networking was what made us successful. Gathering the attendee list and setting 30-minute meetings with industry experts that are aligned with your mission will be a critical part of your success. – Jimmy St. Louis, Franchise123
7. BONDING OVER PAIN POINTS HELPS SOLVE PROBLEMS.
I often find as much, if not more value, in paying attention to the questions that are on attendees’ minds when they step to the mic, or by listening to side conversations. This helps illuminate the common quandaries and pain points. For example, in the audio-podcast industry, many questions speak about the challenge of discovery and growth, so if you’re looking to create solutions, it’s a great place to focus. – Jonathan Fields, Spark Endeavors | Good Life Project®
8. BRIEF CONVERSATIONS ARE EFFECTIVE.
Conferences will never go back to “normal.” The world has changed, and so must we. Prepare for new, shorter trade shows with long daily hours, packed attendee schedules, and condensed exhibit hall time. Think “outside the booth” and build brand awareness pre-show or in-person off the show floor. Grab 15-minute blocks throughout the day for brief but meaningful interactions with customers. – Lisa Bichsel, Bichsel Medical Marketing Group
9. NETWORKING IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART.
Create a plan for attending, reach out to industry leaders, and set up meetings in advance. Review the schedule before going and be flexible once you’re there. Talk to everyone in line at Starbucks to booths in the trade area. The goal is to meet new people and connect to your industry. Serendipity is part luck. Create your luck by meeting more people. – Aaron Bare, XMBA by the Change Agent Academy
10. BLENDED CONFERENCES ARE THE MOST INSIGHTFUL.
The most memorable conferences are ones that focus on thought leadership and the voice of customers and peers in the overarching event strategy. Attendees want to leave the event with confidence and clarity in the “so what,” “now what” and “now how.” I get the most out of events that blend strategy sessions with insightful research, expert advice, hands-on workshops, and peer-to-peer discussion forums. – Janelle Dieken, Genesys
11. NETWORKING SHOULD START BEFORE THE EVENT.
As a health tech startup, some of our most meaningful connections come from one-on-one meetings at industry events. Take time to contact key targets in the weeks leading up to a conference (before schedules fill up) and request an on-site meeting. Most conferences offer apps or online networking portals where you can see who’s attending, these are great for building lists and reaching targets. – Donna Conroy, SciMar ONE, INC
12. MEANINGFUL CONNECTIONS ENCOURAGE PROBLEM-SOLVING.
There is something special about leaving the mundane daily routines to engage with like-minded professionals in real time. Hit the Slack snooze and just indulge in conversations. It can be about the industry, how our businesses relate to one another, or just exploring ways we can help each other. It all starts with a meaningful connection. – Kimberly Pedego, Noble Studios
13. SHOWING UP BUILDS TRUST.
When you have a high-ticket offer, your clients need to trust you before they sign up for your service. And seeing you year after year, among people they already trust, is a great way to build that. I go to the Genius Network annual event every year and I’ve talked to someone there about doing a book years before we started working together, but we were seeing each other at the event in between. – Anna David, Legacy Launch Pad
14. TIME BLOCKING MAXIMIZES TIME FOR NETWORKING.
I follow a 30-30-40 rule for conference attendance. I spend thirty percent of my time in sessions, and thirty percent in scheduled meetings. I leave forty percent of my time unplanned; being intentional about having unscheduled time allows me the space for spontaneous conversation and invaluable networking. I gravitate towards executive conferences because they know that networking is critical. – Mack McKelvey, SalientMG
15. EXPERTS COLLABORATING CAN SOLVE BIG PROBLEMS.
I recently attended See Change Sessions, a nontypical conference that organized experience-based sessions to foster planned serendipity and put attendees in the right mindset to engage in meaningful conversations about the biggest industry problems. Learning about incredible grassroots movements addressing climate crises through social, political, and material lenses was enriching and humbling. – Gayatri Keskar, Material ConneXion
Read the original article on Fast Company here