Six weeks to go until the fall ERE Expo! Momentum is building. Early registrations are going strong, but there is still time to register and book those less-expensive flights into Ft. Lauderdale or Miami.
My leadership team and I put our heads together to put together the following menu of ideas to maximize your ERE conference experience. Hope you enjoy them!
#1: Attend a pre-conference workshop. I’ve done this twice, and this is a great example of “you get out of it what you put into it.” If you come ready to engage and share on important topics, you will walk away with a great experience. If you want to sit back passively and listen, I humbly suggest you don’t sign up.
#2: In advance, take 15-30 minutes to plan the sessions you want to attend ahead of time, and for each time slot have a backup if a session isn’t working for you.
#3: Write down the top two to three things you want to get out of each session, and list out some probing questions ahead of time (just like prepping for an interview). If these specifics don’t get covered during the presentation, then you’re ready to dig deeper. This will benefit you and all other attendees. It’s no accident that the best sessions are usually the most interactive.
#4: If you’re in a session and the presenter isn’t going into enough detail (or isn’t presenting real examples or real data), then politely challenge them; don’t be quiet! Speak up! Again, in the end, you, the other attendees, and the presenter will benefit from this feedback.
#5: Once you’re at the event, write down your key takeaways from each session and share them with others. Prioritize the top three to four items for follow up, and engage others to help make them happen, and help hold you accountable for action.
#6: Set a goal for a number of new, quality contacts to make. Challenge yourself to not just hang out with people from your organization. Start a contest on who can develop the most quality contacts.
#7: Similarly, identify people you want to meet ahead of time, and seek them out. For example, if you’re just dying to meet Dr. John Sullivan (I think one of my recruiting managers might be president of his secret fan club), or one of the other conference speakers, then reach out ahead of time and invite him/her to get together to talk shop.
#8: If you learned something that just blew you away — really impacted your thinking — write a post and share it with others (on your own blog or via ere.net). Writing it down will help solidify your thinking and subsequent actions.
#9: Attend the vendor fair and be prepared to share your pain points. Vendors love to hear “pain points.” You can use them to spark rich conversations and challenge your status quo.
#10: Listen to the award-winning organizations and set a goal — what do you want your team to win? We did this at DaVita in 2007 when we set a stretch goal to win the ERE “Department of the Year” award. So it literally was a dream come true when we did in 2009.
#11: As I discussed in my last post, take time to think strategically. Block off the time on your conference calendar, both onsite and including your plane ride to/from Florida. If this suggestion is confusing to you, please see my previous post.
In closing, if you attend a great session, follow up with the speaker and tell them it was great, and why. And, start to think about (daydream about) what you can present. I personally did this in 2004, and then presented in 2006. There is power in diversity, and having fresh, new presenters at future events is no exception. Plus, it’s great for personal development and building your “personal brand.”
Please post your own ideas for maximizing your conference experience. I’d love to hear them.
Hope to see you soon in South Florida…