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Hurrah for conference season!

Mar 15, 2013
Steve Jordan explains why you should go to conferences and how to make the most of them.

It’s the conference season – Yippee!
Why you should go, by Steve Jordan

 As the spring conference season approaches, the prospect of standing around at cocktail parties making small talk with people you don’t really know, while the troops back at the office are fire fighting trying to keep the business running, might not fill you with enthusiasm.  You won’t be alone. Many people feel the same way.  But, take it from one who has been to more than most, going to conferences is really worth the effort.  Here’s why.

It’s good for business
Yes it really is.  People don’t just go to conferences to try to avoid falling asleep in the business sessions.  They really do come back with new business.  For 20 years or more I went to every moving conference going, everywhere they would have me, and I never came back empty handed.  I always brought back enough business at least to pay for my trip and, very often much more.  It’s not a cost, it’s an investment.

Information is king
Some conferences have business sessions that are packed, others struggle to get a handful of people prepared to face the front and pay attention.  But always the information is of value, if you just show some interest. It is amazing how often a piece of information, gleaned casually at a business session, can prove to be useful.  It might be something that helps you run your business, or perhaps and idea you wouldn’t ordinarily have had.  Maybe you will learn something that will help fill a moment when the conversation goes quiet in the snug.  You will certainly find out who really knows their stuff on a range of subjects and, therefore, who to call in a moment of crisis. 

Try this game: sit in all the business sessions, listen carefully and write down at least one useful thing from each presentation.  If you can go back to your office and do just one thing differently as a result of something you’ve learned at conference, that whole event was worthwhile.  But there won’t be just one, there’ll be many.

It’s good for the soul
Running a company can be a lonely business.  Sometimes it’s easy to get in a rut, to forget that there is a bigger world out there, and even begin to lose confidence in your own abilities.  Going to an industry conference can be a bit intimidating, until you’ve settled in the bar with a few other people who are equally terrified, but it really is worth the effort.  You might come back with a slight hangover and needing a good night’s kip but you will, at least, have rejoined the human race.

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
Never has this been more true than when applied to a business conference.  It’s particularly appropriate for the moving industry in which very company relies, to some extent, on others to keep the wheels turning, every day.  When the going gets really tough, and the wheels fall off, that’s when you need to know who to call.

Conference is no place for an early night.  You don’t have to be a drinker, you just need to be there, taking part.  The business sessions are important, yes, but it’s in the bar, often after midnight, that the real relationships are built.  It might not seem like work, but it is.  And when you are in need of a little advice, a favour or a business partner in a hurry, it’s those bonds, made somewhere between the cocktail lounge and the fourth floor at 3am, that are unbreakable.  Do not misunderstand their value or chastise your staff for being a little slow down to breakfast.  

Making a name for yourself
Anyone who stands on a stage at an industry conference immediately becomes an industry expert.  Fact!  You don’t need to be able to hold an audience like Peter Ustinov, or confound your critics like Michael Foot – you just need to be OK and you will get away with it and make a name for yourself.  It’s easy.  But most people will shrink away, make an excuse, or suggest another victim.  No!  When the conference organiser asks if you wouldn’t mind ‘doing ten minutes’ or ‘joining in the panel discussion’ shout yes! and whoop for joy.  Your time has come.   

Making friends
Friends are not the same as contacts.  Friends are people who know you well but still love you anyway. They are precious and rare.  But many people have made true lifetime friends at conferences. They start off in the business meeting, gravitate to the bar, slide off for a curry and before you know it something special has happened.  Sometimes people take it a few stages further: I met my wife at a BAR conference and there are plenty more like me I can assure you.

Deduct the tax
Conference expenses look high.  To go to a BAR conference nowadays will probably set you back £1000 by the time you’ve paid all your costs and bought a Sarsaparilla or two. It will cost more to go to OMNI (if you are entitled) and less to go to the Mover Conference in October.  But whatever you spend, your government will help you out by giving you the tax back.  And who said the Romans never did anything ….

And finally ...
You get out of going to conference what you put in.  Do not by cynical.  Face every day with enthusiasm, talk to everyone – even the dull and ignorant, they too have their story, join in when you can and when people ask for your opinion, give it clearly. 

The value of going to conference cannot be overstated.  Those who doubt their value are usually those who never go.  Whether you go to FIDI, LACMA, EuRA, EUROMOVERS, OMNI, our very own Mover Conference, or all of the above, I promise you, you will not be disappointed.  If you are, I promise to buy you a drink in the bar at the next one – well, that’s something you will have gained anyway.

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