I have returned to the office from having attended the SHRM-Atlanta Fall Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. The conference was pretty well done. As in all conferences there were a number of topic tracks you could choose from. I spent the majority of my seesion times on compliance issues ( I know that is so out of character for me, LOL). I knew most of it, but it doesn’t hurt to hear what might be new. So there was some value there.
But the real value for me was derived by the time I spent in the marketplace. The value is found in three places in the marketplace. First was reconnecting with people I had not seen in awhile, both attendees and vendors. As much as you would like to stay in touch with people it is hard to do so in the course of the day-to-day routine. So meeting an old friend or acquaintence wandering around or staffing a booth is always a pleasant event. In doing so I catch up on what they are doing and where they are in the world. If I happen to see two at one time I try to be a “connector” for them and introduce them to someone they have not yet met. This follows along with the keynote address on Netweaving, presented by Bob Littel.
The second value derived is connecting with someone I had not previously met. I made several new aquaintences at this conference, either through an introduction or by walking up to a vendor and sticking my hand out and introducing myself. You never know where that introduction may lead.
The third value is learning what vendors are offering these days. As a consultant I try to be a resource for my clients, and not in just things that I can offer. So hearing what is being offered, what is cutting edge, what is new and exciting is invaluable to me. If you aspire to be strategic in your organization you have to have some foresight. Foresight is gained by doing research and the best way to do that research in the most convienent way possible is to walk around a conference marketplace. Yes you may have to listen to a sales pitch, that is ok. Knowledge comes at a price. It will not kill you. Plus, you have an opportunity to get some great “swag”. Pens, cups, and other gizmos that always make a conference fun.
So the next time you attend a conference make an effort to spend time in the marketplace. Make an effort to meet the vendors and learn more about what is going on and available outside of your office. If nothing else reward these vendors who pay big bucks to be there, it helps keep your cost of attendance down.