No one has time for boondoggles, or for attending far away meetings, events, or sales calls without real purpose in mind. However, many will attend conferences like the one I am speaking at tomorrow (Ingram Micro’s Network and Security Symposium) without taking full advantage of it. Some things to keep in mind when making these trips:
1. This is not your vacation. If it is, you made the wrong choice. Take vacation with your family, leaving your business concerns to those still “on the clock.” True refreshment does not come from this type of vacation. Even if it’s a great destination, you are better off planning a real vacation, totally focused on recreation and cultivating family relationships.
2. There’s value here at the conference – don’t miss it. Set up your automated attendant and change your voice mail to let people know you are largely unavailable for the next three days. There is no value in spending your session time or break time on the phone. Periodically check in, but plan to use free time to build your business.
3. Study the schedule. Not every session will have value, so figure that out ahead of time. Make sure you are ready to go on the sessions that matter to you most. Spend time outside of these sessions reviewing notes, networking, and preparing for your next session.
4. Speaking of notes…why do so many people just sit there. I hope this is not you. Take notes! Don’t bother writing it all down, but when idea stimulating comments are made, write them down. Stay focused, write, and prepare to review. You’ll be amazed at how many ideas you can come up with in a great session. If you don’t write them down, they are gone forever.
5. One major distraction comes as you start thinking of all the tasks waiting for you at home. I keep a separate list of to-do items. Every time one pops into my mind, I write it down and forget about it.
6. If the speaker is great and is willing to give out cards, has a book or audio program, or provides electronic media, get it. I always buy the book if the speaker is good. Usually they have only touched the surface and I’ve invested 3 days and thousands of dollars in opportunity cost. Another $25 dollars isn’t going to kill me – but it may turn into millions of dollars down the road.
7. Meet people! Don’t be shy – most of the people attending this event are here alone and ready to engage in conversation. If you came with a group, get a plan together on who is there and who you need to meet. Reconvene periodically and exchange insights. If you hang out together, chances are you will miss one of the most important opportunities these events hold.
© David Stelzl 2010