By Melissa Seitz-Medford, Manager, TRC Consulting Services
At the recent Worldwide ERC® Americas Conference in Dallas, I couldn’t help but notice how many individuals were wearing “first time attendee” name badges. Although this was not my first time at a WERC conference, I thought it was interesting and exciting to see how many new faces there were, and I looked forward to hearing what they had to say.
Forums like WERC provide a wonderful platform for relocation industry veterans and those who may be looking at global mobility with “fresh eyes” to share thoughts, professional challenges and solutions. Given all of the work that goes into producing these conferences, and the substantial investment companies make to participate, it is worth considering how you can make the most of your time at them.
Relocation Industry Education
This might seem obvious, but it is important to remember why you are at the relocation industry conference in the first place. The educational sessions at WERC and other conferences can become a casualty of other planned business meetings at the event or trying to manage crises back at the office remotely. Allow yourself some dedicated learning time, even if you are an industry veteran.
WERC puts together a fantastic array of sessions reflecting today’s most important industry topics, with expert speakers representing corporate, supplier and outside perspectives. I always have a difficult time choosing which sessions to attend: so many are of interest and too often, they happen at concurrent times. One strategy to consider if you are attending a conference with a colleague or an industry friend is to work together and split up those sessions that appeal to both of you, regrouping at the end of each day to debrief.
WERC has gone largely paperless and most session materials are available on worldwideerc.org after the conference has closed. You can easily review and download the information at your leisure.
Lastly, if you find yourself in a session that is not meeting your expectations, don’t hesitate to slip out quietly and move on to another one. Use your time wisely and make sure you’re benefitting from every session that you attend.
Networking with Global Mobility Professionals
WERC conferences are a terrific opportunity to connect with old industry friends and colleagues, and meet industry experts and peers. It’s a time when competitors share information and best practices for the greater good and new connections are forged. With that said, networking comes more naturally to some folks than others. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to have valuable conversations without having them feel forced.
A walk through the Marketplace will allow you to stop and chat with exhibitors along the way. Many will have new and innovative ideas or products to share. Relocation management companies and other exhibitors often have recent industry surveys, white papers and other information that you might not see if you just pass by their booths.
(Pro tip: If you are connecting with a colleague from an exhibiting company, their booth is a great place to meet. It can be difficult to find one another in vast conference spaces with thousands of people wandering around.)
There’s an old sales axiom that some of the most productive meetings happen offline. At WERC conferences, this could include sponsored receptions and parties, the WERC charity Walk for the Foundation and golf outing, quiet dinners with current or prospective clients or even an elevator! One networking tip I have found to be invaluable is to seek out your supplier partners. These folks work not only with your company but also with your competitors and a wide variety of corporate clients. They have a broad and deep pulse on the industry and frequently, news you can use.
Recharging Your Batteries
Sometimes we all need to step out of our normal day-to-day work environment and clear our heads of the day-to-day minutiae of our jobs. It’s easy to get in a rut, and most of us do not have, or allow, enough time for continuing education and fresh thinking.
Somehow, this becomes easier when you physically leave your workplace and place yourself in a completely different environment, surrounded by smart, innovative thinkers. The buzz at WERC conferences is infectious, and you will find yourself in thought-provoking discussions in both formal sessions and offline.
You are sure to leave with new information and ideas that you can bring back to the office and share with your colleagues. Leveraging this knowledge maximizes your company’s return on investment. And these fresh ideas and new enthusiasm will only enhance the value you bring to your clients.