In our busy social media crazy world we often forget the importance of being in a live face-to-face setting with others from the business community.
Being active in your industry trade association can bring with it many benefits. There is power in being connected to other people who are active in your line of work, but it can also be easy to talk yourself out of committing to that annual meeting year after year. Many people think that joining the organization is enough, but to capitalize on the return on your investment you need to be engaged and participate in the meetings.
Small business owners are busy, so the thought of taking a few days away from the office to participate in a conference, trade show, convention or seminar can seem like a waste of time. However, these live meetings might be just what you need to uncover new ways to growing your business.
Many think that being around competitors can be a waste of time, or worse, a chance for others to steal their ideas. But not everyone in your business is actually a competitor, as many can be allies and friends. The mindset you choose about participating in events will impact your results.
Here are five reasons to attend your industry conference:
Educational opportunities. No matter how experienced you are at your business, everyone can learn. Working in a small business venture can often be isolating, and without exposure to a variety of points of view, we can miss new ideas and trends that can impact future results. The educational aspect of a conference can expose you to new ways of conducting your business and help you discover how to be more productive.
Networking with peers. Industry conferences provide a great opportunity to network. Often competitors from other regions of the country can become valuable resources for referrals and best-practices. Avoiding peers for fear of others discovering your competitive advantage can actually limit your own success. Collaboration is the way to approach networking. While there are those whose intentions can be suspect, most people can help each other uncover ideas and spark inspiration when they get to know each other on a personal level.
Encounter new vendors and suppliers. Too often people shy away from the trade show exhibit hall at conferences. They fear that they will have to talk to salespeople, but these industry suppliers are some of the best people for you to get to know if you want to learn more about the current business climate. Discovering innovative products and services for your business is necessary to stay competitive in today’s fast-paced world. Plus, these vendors who sell to your industry fully grasp what is happening inside your competition. Invest time with the sponsors at the event and turn them into your friends and allies.
Position yourself as an expert. When you are active in your industry, you can develop a reputation as an expert to your peers and your clients. Those who are engaged over the long term are often asked to speak at the events and to write articles for their industry publications. Like it or not, others like to associate with the experts in any industry. Clients feel good about doing business with those that are celebrated by their peers. If your strategy is to be the best-kept secret in your business community, you will be missing a valuable opportunity.
Have fun. Being in business should be rewarding and fun. All work and no play can get old fast. Industry conferences can add a layer of enjoyment to managing your career growth by mixing a social aspect into your learning and industry branding efforts. Many events have fun activities such as parties, golf, and tours of the local area where the event is hosted. Taking an extra day at the beginning or end of the trip to explore or visit friends in the region is also a great way to maximize the investment in travel. Never underestimate the power of a little fun mixed with some interesting people!
Many falsely believe that since they can now access industry information via the Internet that the days of the live meeting are gone. The truth is, meetings are more important than ever. The value in meetings comes from the human-to-human connections that occur. Often people cite the serendipitous “hallway conversations” that they have with other attendees as the most valuable parts of attending an event. While these are not on the agenda, or mentioned in the breakout sessions learning objectives, when two or more people begin to discuss topics on a deeper and personal level, the success of the event to those involved becomes irreplaceable. It is the people that bring the ROI to your time at a conference.
Thom Singer is a professional speaker, corporate training and the author of ten books on the power of business relationships, networking, presentation skills and entrepreneurship. Known as “the Conference Catalyst”, he regularly speaks at conferences across all industries and helps create and atmosphere for impactful engagement that leads to more powerful business connections. Visit his website at http://www.thomsinger.comand follow him at @thomsinger on Twitter.