Quick, as procurement and operations professionals, what is the most valuable resource we have? If you guessed our time, you'd be right. Unfortunately -- and I think that I speak for a majority in the sector here -- we often find it hard to balance the right level of learning and networking throughout the year with the need to get our jobs done. That's why being picky about conference attendance is so critical -- unless of course, your primary motivation is to network to find that next position at a rival firm or change industries all together. Over on Supply Excellence, Tim Minahan recently interviewed Doug Smock of Global CPO fame about getting the most from conferences, as well the upcoming Conference Board that Doug is hosting. Even noting the obvious bias in the piece given Doug's plug for his own event, I think that there are some sage pieces of observation and advice in the interview.
For example, I agree with Doug that "by and large" conferences have become "too proforma" and "there are now many players without real supply management expertise or involvement. It's strictly a business." But how can you separate out those who approach conferences simply as a business versus those who are deeply involved in the sector -- before choosing which ones to attend? Doug suggests looking for "thematic content ... I always looked for presentations based on real experience by practitioners. The best presentations often cover unexpected problems, such as some of the supplier issues with early e-procurement installations. There has been too little of this at most purchasing conferences. Of course, my litmus test was always — 'Could I get a story from it?'" My guess is that if Doug can get a story from it, that just about anyone will get value from it. But don't wait for Doug and others to report on what they see. Take his advice, and prioritize the right events to attend based on criteria that matter to you.