By Tom Lambotte from GlobalMac IT
[This article I wrote was originally published on the ABA Techshow’s blog (http://www.techshow.com/blog/). I wanted to edit it a bit and share here as the points I discussed certainly apply for all conferences.]
The sad truth is that events like the ABA Techshow are a complete waste of time for many of the attendees. Why do I say this? And who is to blame? It sure isn’t the event! They pack an amazing amount of value, as much as they possibly can, into every nook and cranny. The problem lies with the attendees. I'm going to share 3 of the most common mistakes which ensure their time is completely wasted.
1 Not wrapping up loose ends before leaving
It is far too common to see attendees constantly stepping out to answer phone calls or replying to emails while they are sitting in on presentations. The alternative for many, waiting until a break to return calls, although a bit more polite, will still be robbing you of the most valuable opportunities to you at conferences, the connections. How can you minimize this?
The week before leaving, make a list of the loose ends you need to wrap up BEFORE leaving. If you are unable to complete them, delegate them to someone on your team. This will drastically reduce the amount of interruptions.
Treat your time at the event as if you are on vacation, unreachable, unless it’s a dire emergency. Teach this to your staff: “If you could not reach me, what would you do?” Most of the time, they can come up with the right answer on their own and therefore handle many things without involving you. This will allow your mind to be present and allow to focus.
2. Not having outcomes set before getting there
Most people show up to the event and figure out what session to attend. Others, at best, have the presentations they want to attend pre-selected, which is an improvement, however, I still don’t think that is enough. You need to think about what are you looking to learn from each presentation, specifically.
Write this question down and answer it before going your event: "What’s the single most important question that if you got an answer to it would make your entire trip worthwhile?"
At a minimum, do this at a high level for the entire event. Get feedback from other have the biggest impact?
Once you've completed this step, for extra credit, get more specific. What would happen if you answered that question for each presentation ahead of time? What if you answered that question before going to the networking opportunities? What if you answered that question before walking into the Exhibitor Hall? Instead of just looking for the best pens and coolest freebies you can find. Instead of just walking around aimlessly, like walking around Costco without a shopping list. Do you think you would get more value out of the exhibitors if you answered this question ahead of time? Absolutely!
What about your peers or friends you want to connect with? Who is the one person you want to make sure to speak to and why? Who is the one vendor you want to meet with and why? Maybe a vendor you currently use or maybe a new solution your firm is currently missing. So, set some specific outcomes BEFORE leaving.
3. Not making friends. Don't be a hermit!
I believe very strongly that far more than 50% of the value, tips and ideas you can gain from conferences should come from the interactions you have outside of the presentations. Follow-up questions with presenters, breaks between talks, going to the Taste of Techshow dinners, the Welcome Reception, the Lunch N' Learn sessions, aka networking (specific events built around ABA Techshow). There are many opportunities setup to facilitate interacting with your peers. If you've been to conference you are attending before, chances are you know some people. If it's your 1st or 2nd time and you don't yet know anyone attending, make it a point to attend the social events. You'll meet people, make new friends and I promise some of these connections will prove to be immensely valuable over the years as they often turn into lifetime relationships. One of the things I look forward to the most at ABA Techshow is seeing and spending time with many the friends I have developed over the years.
To wrap up, with some preparation ahead of time and by committing to yourself to squeeze every little bit of juice of value out of the conference you are attending, you will find them far more rewarding. Go ahead and block off a few hours between now and your next event to do these things and I promise you will take away far more than if you did it like most people and just showed up and winged it!
About the Author: GlobalMac IT was founded by Tom Lambotte – renowned nationwide as an author, speaker, trusted IT advisor, and cutting edge, successful provider of the #1 complete end-to-end IT solution for Mac-Based Law Firms in the world. Private firms from throughout North America – and as far reaching as American Samoa - running with a staff of 5-50 - have relied on his expertise to help them put their IT headaches behind once and for all. Using his real world experience, where results rule and dollars can't be wasted on negligent computer consultants, he wanted to help managing partners and office managers of Mac-based law firms to put an end to wasting their time and money on IT support that does not work and rescue them from the frustration. Our unique “TotalCare” approach integrates classic IT support with proven proactive support that truly converts IT from something to be dealt with, into a tool that truly increases law firm profits, increases staff productivity, and provides piece of mind that firm and client data is secure and that their security is never at risk.