Ready, Set, Go
There’s no substitute for attending a live, face-to-face professional conference. You’ll meet new people, learn new techniques, discover new tools, and explore a new city. When you make the investment of time and money you return to the workplace with a renewed sense of purpose, armed with new knowledge and tools as well as valuable new contacts that can turn into long-term relationships. These benefits will help you grow personally and more importantly professionally.
You may think that since you can access industry information on the internet, the days of the live meeting are gone. In truth, conferences are more important than ever. The value comes in the person-to-person connections. Conference attendees often cite the unplanned conversations – in hallways, restaurants, and bars – with other attendees as the most valuable parts of attending an event. These conversations may not be on the agenda but when two or more people discuss topics on a deeper and personal level, the event success of those involved in those chats is irreplaceable. People bring you the best return on investment (ROI) to your time at the event.
A conference can be an input overload – new people, new ideas, new tools. So, the better prepared you are, the more you’ll enjoy your time.
Plan Your Arrival and Stay
Get ready to conference. Purchase your conference tickets. Check for additional workshops you may want to attend that have an extra cost. Make your decision and pay.
Find your place to stay. Most conferences have a booking deal with a hotel for special conference prices. Reserve your room. Decide now if you want to add extra days to tour local sites or a recovery day before you rush home. Book your room.
Plan your travel. Book your flight. Book arrival and departure airport travel like airporter or town car. You don’t want to be scrambling once you arrive.
If you are driving, give your vehicle a health check before you go to avoid roadside emergencies. Check with the hotel if there is an extra parking charge for vehicles or if parking is included in your room cost.
If you plan to be out and about and want a vehicle, book your vehicle rental to match your airport arrival and departure times. Be sure to plan time to check in and check out as you plan your conference schedule. You don’t want to miss a flight because you didn’t plan enough time to return your vehicle. This is especially true if the rental agency is located away from the airport and schedules rides to and from the airport.
Create a rough budget for expenses. Once you’re there and socializing, you’ll have meals and drinks and may pick up a tool or two at the conference. Don’t forget gifts for kids and your wife to take home.
Before you go, review the conference schedule. Select the sessions you want to attend. Get a sense of your priorities and where you’ll be during the conference.
Once you’ve checked into your room, check in to the conference. Gather any materials and then go back to your room. Select the items you want with you. You’ll want a schedule, especially when the conference lasts several days. Review where you want to be each day. Be prepared to change your plan as you meet people.
Now go back to the conference. Plunge in. Depending on your time, take a first look at the exhibit booths. Go to the opening ceremony. It will give you a sense of the conference and who is there. If there’s a mixer, go and meet people. You’ll be seeing them over the next several days. This is your first opportunity to meet peers and make connections.
Conferences like InspectionWorld, offer a variety of sessions – presentations with new information, courses to learn new skills to add to your knowledge. Get involved in the sessions you attend. Ask questions to test your knowledge. If you don’t understand something, ask for a further explanation.
Network with Peers
Approach other inspectors with an attitude of collaboration. You’ll uncover ideas and spark inspiration. Develop connections with peers in other parts of the country. You build a referral network with these personal connections.
Explore Vendors and Suppliers
Avoiding the trade show exhibit because you don’t want to talk to salespeople, limits your knowledge. Industry suppliers understand your business and are some of the best people for you to get to know. You’ll learn about the current business climate. Plus, discover innovative products and services to stay competitive. Conference sponsors can turn into friends and allies for your business.
Share Your Expertise
When you engage long-term in your industry, you can develop a reputation as an expert to your peers and your clients. Your geographic area may make you an expert in a certain aspect of inspection where others need more expertise. You may be asked to speak at later events or write articles for publications. Your clients will feel good about doing business with someone recognized by their peers.
Enjoy Your Time
Have fun. Meet people and stay open to those serendipitous chats over meals and in hallways. Offer your opinions and share stories from unusual findings to how you dealt with a difficult client. Mix the social aspect into your learning and business branding efforts. Many conference attendees find these social connections are one of the long-lasting benefits of going to a conference.
Once you return home filled with new ideas, follow-up on your connections. Write a quick email message to peers you met. Remind them of your meeting and your local expertise. Consider the opportunities to improve your business with offers from suppliers. Follow up with questions.
Integrate new ideas and practices you learned in workshops and lectures into your business. Share your new knowledge with clients and real estate professionals to build your brand.
Published in the American Society of Home Inspectors ASHI Reporter, December 2020 issue.