Getting the Most Out of Conferences – Jason Busch Gives Great Advice

Our colleagues in the US are excited to be partnering with ISM to put together the Global Procurement Tech Summit, which is taking place in Baltimore March 14–16. I will be there too … and if anyone from this side of the Atlantic is still thinking of attending, and it looks like a great event, let me know and we can get a special discount for you!

As part of the build-up to that event, our US colleague and Spend Matters founder, Jason Busch has published an excellent article (in two parts here and here) suggesting how delegates can get the most value possible out of conferences and events. It’s excellent advice, in fact I don’t think I have ever seen anything that comes close to this in terms of its usefulness and insight from a delegate’s perspective. It should be read by everyone who attends such events, even occasionally. In fact, if it is only occasional, then all the more reason to make the most of the opportunity.

For instance, he says don’t be afraid to walk out of a session, a lesson it took me many, many years to learn. I’d add one tip – if you do that, look at your phone first and do the “oh my goodness, my office has been struck by a meteorite” face before you walk out – it does make the speaker feel better if he or she happens to notice you!

Here is a short extract anyway, as Jason gives a great tip for delegates, and one that very few seem to understand or act upon in my experience.

Discretely Engage the Speakers

There’s something people forget about speakers that is completely obvious — that is, by presenting at the event, they have permission to speak, often about their organizations and the lessons they’ve learned, even if it is not for attribution. I’m often surprised by the paltry crowds that gather at the front of the room at procurement events after sessions that seek to engage speakers. It just doesn’t make sense to me. More folks should be proactive in discussion.

Engaging speakers is a great way to learn, and perhaps as important, knowing that you plan on doing so makes you more mentally aware during the session itself so you know what questions you want to ask discretely after the talk or later during the event in a more social setting. Also, make sure to get yourself into the line to talk to the speaker quickly. If you’re a practitioner, say what you feel was useful or interesting, ask an insightful question and then offer to do an informal “benchmarking” discussion call (and add that you have something unique and interesting to share back as well). If you’re a provider, do the same! And don’t commandeer the discussion, since speakers have places to go and the conference organizers likely want to set up the room.

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