By: Hilary Wickes, America Outdoors
1. Be prepared; have objectives in mind
While it’s great to attend an event with an open mind, it’s also important to set expectations and goals for your time there. Because conferences are jam-packed with information, it can be overwhelming. One common lament we hear at America Outdoors is attendees struggle to organize themselves after the conference and put their new knowledge into action. Remember, strategy begins before the event.
The truth is, when you attend a conference you will get more takeaways than you can implement in the coming year. Before you pack your bag for the conference look at your personal and business objectives. Refreshing your memory on your overall strategies allows you to:
Stick to key performance indicators to measure your performance
Pick educational content sessions aligned with your specific goals
Make a plan and stay focused so you won’t feel overwhelmed when you leave.
If you are attending a conference for the first time, it can be intimidating to walk up and start chatting with someone new. Don’t let that stop you! One of the most important things you can gain from attending a conference is meaningful contacts.
At the America Outdoors conference, we love to see reunions and new connections taking place. AO offers social events each evening to make this easy. In fact, some attendees have even formed unofficial groups and official consortiums to get insights from others in the industry. Those who participate in these gatherings describe it as a helpful way to connect with other company owners and managers who are not their neighbors and direct competitors. These relationships take time to build, and the only way to do that is to show up and don’t be shy!
BONUS: Get more conference networking tips in this article from the conference experts.
3. Leave the work at home
Conferences are usually 2-4 days. It can be difficult to turn off your email for that long, but it’s extremely important to do so during the conference. You’ve paid good money to come to an event to learn. In our day-to-day lives, we have plenty of opportunities to get distracted. Attending a conference is your chance to remove some of those distractions to focus on the success of your business. Turn on your out of office notice and put down the phone during presentations. Remember- writing notes by hand improves retention. Bring a pen and paper and get the most from our world class speakers.
4. Meet with the exhibitors- they’re your experts!
Walking into an exhibit hall can be intimidating. If you’re not familiar with the exhibitors and haven’t planned who you want to visit you can end up ambling around the hall aimlessly, while trying to avoid eye contact with the eager sales reps waiting to talk to you.
Don’t be nervous about talking to exhibitors! When you choose a conference, you try to find one that is tailored to your business. And when conference planners, like America Outdoors, design an exhibit hall we make sure that each exhibitor is chosen to fit your business needs. Walking the trade show floor is a great way to get education from experts, spend quality time with speakers at their booths and continue the networking spirit.
Even if you have been coming to the same conference for many years, make sure you take time to visit with as many exhibitors as you can. As an outfitter, you are a jack of all trades; this is your opportunity to learn from the suppliers who can help your business run smoothly. It’s important to remember that some exhibitors won’t be right for your business, but don’t get discouraged. Introduce yourself, ask questions, make notes and discover which exhibitors will help you improve your business.
*This year America Outdoors has many new exhibitors. Our trade show exhibitors are as diverse as your businesses. The commercial members of AO are a huge part of the outdoor community.
5. Share what you learned
If you’re attending a conference with your whole team, lucky you! While we encourage this, it is not the reality for many conference-goers. This means you have the unique responsibility to share what you learned with your team.
Ask your conference organizers if there is an opportunity to get hand-outs or recordings from the conference sessions. This often comes with a cost, but it could help you better communicate with your team. If recordings are not available, make sure you take great notes and flag your desired action items.
The best way to employ your new findings is to share your notes and connections with your team, which will encourage group buy-in. As a team you candigest what you learned and decide which pieces you are going to implement this year and which goals to leave on the table for years to come. We recommend mixing up who you send every year when possible or appropriate.
America Outdoors Conference
If you are an outdoor recreation professional, the America Outdoors Conference is for you! Join us for our next event to grow your business and connect with your peers; learn from one another and celebrate the special culture of the outdoor industry.