Weekly Editorial

5 Tips for Navigating Industry Events

Written By Rob Kirkbride, Editor-in-chief, OI Publications • January 8, 2024

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Hopefully you’ve used the last few weeks to recharge your batteries and enjoy the holiday season, because once the calendar turns to mid-January, the industry begins to heat up.

The BIFMA 360° Leadership Conference is right around the corner and is one of the must-attended events of the year. I know, I know. It’s tough to attend conferences, events and seminars following the pandemic. Though I really do enjoy all the events the industry has to offer, I find I have to pry myself from my office chair to attend. Not sure why going anywhere after COVID is such a chore for me, but it is.

Still, these conferences, events and seminars are a critically important part of gathering information about the industry. Simply put, I attend these events because I learn so much from them and connect with so many people.

Like everyone, I sometimes struggle to make the most of these events. I don’t get as much out of some of the events I attend than I should. So what should we do to make the most of them? Here are five tips:

Set some goals before attending. Ask yourself: Why am I attending this event? Reflect on some of your professional goals before you attend and come up with a game plan. If you are new to the event and they offer an orientation, attend it. At the BIFMA 360°, first-time attendees have badges that signify they are new to the conference, which allows veteran attendees to greet and welcome them.

Read event materials and do some planning before you attend. Most events have websites that allow you to register and get a good feel for what you will experience. The websites often include attendee lists as well, giving you an idea of who will attend (and who you might want to connect with). Many events also include apps to go with them, making planning and discovery that much easier. Take advantage of these digital tools.

Tag team with colleagues to attend sessions. Most conferences and events have sessions that you might want to attend that run at the same time. If you are there with a colleague, tag team the sessions and share notes so you have all the bases covered.

Participate fully. If there is a question and answer session following a presentation, ask a question. If you have time to chat with the speaker after they are finished, do so. Attend as many functions as possible. Participating fully also includes introducing yourself to people you might not know. Don’t sit with your colleagues if they are attending with you. It makes noobies feel unwelcome and gives conferences a cliquey feel. Networking is an important part of any event. Take advantage of it.

Take notes. Chances are, not everyone on your team will be invited or able to attend every event. That means you are representing your company there. Take notes at sessions and see if your colleagues would be open to a “lunch and learn” so you can share information.

As 2024 gets rolling, plan on attending as many events as you can. If we’ve not yet met and you see me at one, take a moment to introduce yourself. I can’t wait to meet you.

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