Getting the most out of conferences & events

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Reading Scott Rutherford’s latest post on surviving ASQ’s Word Conference on Quality and Improvement has left me with fond memories and a reminder that I’m really going to be missing out this year by not being able to attend!

So, next week, quality professionals from around the world will gather, network, learn and share ideas.  You can feel the passion the minute you enter the convention center.  Anyone that’s been there knows exactly what I mean.  It’s the place where quality is cool and the accepted idea that quality is pretty much everything rules the roost.

I’ve been involved with selecting and exhibiting at trade shows for many years now and think it’s quite fun.  Pro QC has always been supportive of me going to the ASQ events for professional development as well.  The ASQ events are hands-down my favorite.  The organizers obviously do a great job planning the speakers, after-hours opportunities, etc.  Speaking of, I actually came across Simon Sinek’s TEDx talk yesterday! 🙂

Whatever the show is, Scott really nails it on the preparation and planning in his post.  My suggestions through experience can be generalized for all shows and are similar:

You’re there to network.

Meeting people who share similar interests is awesome! While it may be easy to attach on to a small group, it’s important to manage your time and make sure you’re taking advantage of the face-to-face opportunity.  Even introverts can rest at ease knowing that everyone there has something in common.

Advice: Have personal business cards printed, in addition to your standard business cards.  

**I actually wrote an article about networking at events like this previously.

You’re there to learn.

Plan your time wisely and register for any seminars/workshops you want as soon as possible.  Listen-Listen-Listen.  I’ve always received either a physical and/or electronic copy of the content, so I try to really be present when I’m in the session.  I always have pen and paper but only write down insights or ideas.  There’s usually opportunities for questions as well, which can really help you customize the experience to get the most value.

Advice: I love concept mapping.  Lifehacker has a great article on note-taking covering various valuable options. 

Plan your day.  

Planning your day removes some of the chaos factor.  Get the venue layout and event schedule as soon as it’s available.

Advice: Actually put some thought into your attire. You’ll need clothing for walking around the event, after-hours functions, etc.  Really consider your shoe choice wisely, even if that seems silly… It only took one trade show wearing fancy heels for me to figure this one out. 

Summarize your day.

This may be a little too much for some.  But, as someone who enjoys writing anyway, I always make sure to summarize the day.  With so much going on and so many things to follow-up with when I get back, it’s important for me to kind of rehash my thoughts so that I can revisit them later and follow-up as necessary.  It takes the stress out of having to remember to remember.

Advice: Use social media if you can.  It’s a great way to “raise the voice” about your experience to others who are unable to attend.

Leave room.

Seriously, make sure you have room for all the stuff you’ll be bringing back.  Good one Scott!  Last year, my bag was crammed with all of the bookstore goodies.

Have fun!

Don’t get so wrapped up that you forget to have fun and enjoy the experience.

Follow all of the conference fun via Twitter – #wcqi13

My review of last year’s conference is here.

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