In the age of the Internet, budget cutbacks, and increased demands for time, are trade shows and conferences still relevant? The answer is a resounding “Yes!”
Later this month, I’ll be attending the National Postal Forum (NPF) in Washington, DC. I look forward to networking with fellow professionals and U.S. Postal Service leaders. In addition to teaching several courses, I’ll be attending classes on the Intelligent Mail Package Barcode (IMpb), integrating direct mail with mobile strategies, and mail center security. Of course, I’ll be up early Monday morning to listen to Postmaster General Pat Donahoe’s annual address to the industry.
My good friend, Paul Balbastro, has a time management tip for getting the most out of a conference: the "30-30-30-10 Rule". Paul says you should spend:
- 30% of your time at the exhibits,
- 30% of your time in classes,
- 30% of your time networking, and
- 10% of your time enjoying the host city.
You’re able to attend some great educational sessions. Best of all, you’re learning from fellow managers – people who have actually used the tools and techniques they’re talking about. When you ask questions, you’re not talking to a professor with abstract ideas, but a fellow professional with real world experience. Whether you’ve been in the business for 2 years or 20 years, there’s still a lot left to learn.
Speaking of fellow professionals, it is important to expand your network. Whether it’s renewing acquaintances or making new contacts, conferences are the best place for networking. There’s so much to gain by building relationships with your peers in the industry. You’ll know who to call when facing problems for the first time, or checking references on a vendor. Who better to talk to than someone you already know? Your network can become the best tool in your personal development drawer.
Before attending the show, prepare a schedule. Choose the classes and presentations that will help you meet challenges today and tomorrow. Have a plan on which vendors you need to meet on the trade show floor. If possible, schedule appointments with sales people in advance. Remember – leave some free time on the schedule to recharge your batteries.
Keep track of what you accomplish during the shows, and prepare a written report for your manager when your return to the office. Highlight what you learned and how you plan to implement changes in your organization. Include any money savings ideas that you picked up – especially if they’re greater than what it cost you to attend!
When faced with budget cuts, it is often easy to eliminate the trade shows and conferences because they are “optional” expenses. However, if you want to be aware of the latest technologies and products, improve your knowledge of the industry, and establish a solid network of fellow professionals – then consider your attendance mandatory.