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February 25, 2016

Jon Wool talks 10 great tips for making the most of an industry conference. Learn more about his CSES appearance here.

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CONFERENCE AND CONVENTION seasons are in full swing with programs dedicated to caterers, restaurateurs, and event planners—just to name a few, says Jon Wool, president and owner of JHW Hospitality Consulting, Western Springs, IL. “Each conference provides attendees with new and usable content on a variety of relevant subjects and will surely keep you up-to-date with the latest changes. So, consider convention time ‘Prime Time’ and jump at the wealth of opportunities at hand.”

Bear in mind, says Wool, that conference ‘Prime Time’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘Party Time.’ “Even at industry parties, you need to keep in mind your main objectives: to further your professional development, build your own personal business networks, and to accelerate the success of your company.”

Wool suggests putting together a solid game plan in order to make the most of a conference experience—and the investment. Here are 10 helpful hints:

1. Determine in advance of the conference what you wish to learn and which sessions will provide the most benefit. Create an agenda so you don’t accidentally miss a session that was made for you.

2. Plan to attend sessions that will challenge you. Look for topics that fall outside the scope of what you already know.

3. Identify speakers and attendees you would like to meet. Send an email of introduction to each of them, followed by a phone call a week or so before the conference. Suggest a specific time to connect while there.

4. Concentrate on meeting high quality individuals with whom you can build valuable relationships.

5. Wake up early, dress smartly, and don’t skip sessions. Though the hotel pool and the never-ending buffets may be calling, your business objectives come first.

6. Actively participate in discussions and interactive workshops. A proactive approach will enrich your experience in unexpected ways.

7. Attending the conference with others from your company? Divide and conquer! Separate so you can collectively cover more ground; then schedule a nightly “debriefing” with your team to share notes while they’re fresh in mind. Also, review your individual strategies for the following day.

8. When networking, keep your focus on the other person rather than celebrating your own accomplishments or those of your company. Ask intelligent questions, learn all you can, and offer ways to be of help. Forging relationships and discovering what you share in common with other participants is as important as reciting the classic ‘30 second elevator’ speech.

9. Following the conference, re-connect with those you spent time. Let them know you enjoyed meeting with them or hearing them speak. Refer to something you shared together if possible. An email followed by a phone call will do. Most effective, however, is a classic handwritten note on a good stock paper.

10. Prepare a written overview of what you learned. Consider which new ideas you want to test with your company. Put together a presentation or write a blog on your key takeaways.

Attending a conference, convention, or networking event should prove to be a professionally rewarding experience, says Wool. “Your involvement offers learning opportunities, the chance to mix with industry experts, and to lend support to contemporaries. Certainly, enjoy yourselves but remember first and foremost that conference and convention time means ‘Prime Time.’ —Kathleen Stoehr

 

Jon Wool will be appearing at CSES2016. Click here for more information

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