If I’m ever at a loss for things to do, I can fill just about any day of the week with an industry event. Online seminars, fam trips, networking events, vendor gatherings and hosted educational trips,are always happening, and most of the time they’re free for qualified attendees. The question I always have to ask myself is “Why should I attend this meeting?” You need to do the same.
While every offer and invitation may sound enticing, do your homework before clicking the “register now” button. Your time is money. Invest it wisely. When evaluating an invitation go, consider this checklist before you commit.
What topics will be covered? If the content is suited to your experience level, needs and interests, it makes an event exponentially more worthwhile.
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We need to be attendees from time to time so we don’t forget what it’s like to experience a program from the attendee’s perspective. When I attend an event, I always leave with insight about how to enhance our guests’ experiences. I’m exposed to décor, menus and event logistics that are planned from someone else’s perspective.
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What will the level of attendees be? Make sure you’re not too senior or junior for the audience. Learning from others or being a mentor has value. But if you’re too far on one end of the spectrum or the other, it can detract from your networking experience.
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Take inventory of what goods and services you need. Events that let you meet multiple vendors streamline your time and give the most exposure possible to potential new partners.
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Is the destination one you would consider? If you don’t know anything about it, this may be a great opportunity to see what it offers. If you know your clients will never use that location, but everything else is a good fit, don’t necessarily let that be a deal-breaker.
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Don’t commit if you’re trying to shoehorn the event between other things you know may ultimately prevent you from attending. Canceling at last minute is bad form.
If you decide to attend, arrive prepared. Remember, the event’s goal is usually for guests to be exposed to new content, vendors and venues, so come ready to ask questions, learn and participate. Bring plenty of business cards. Do your due diligence before arriving. Research the participating vendors and sponsors. Be prepared to discuss your buying history and upcoming needs. If your organization has a closed procurement system, meaning new vendors are only considered every few years, be upfront about it. Avoid exaggerating your needs, annual spend or individual purchasing power. Giving false hope is inappropriate.
These events take a tremendous amount of time and money to produce. “Free” events are not free. Someone is picking up the tab. Attend only if your presence adds value. If you have no events planned or have no need for a new vendor, venue or provider, let someone else take the spot. If you think you can fake your way through and no one will be any wiser, be aware that attendees are evaluated post-show and reinvited based on that feedback.
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What criteria do you use when deciding whether to attend an event? Please share your comments in the section below.