Attending a procurement conference is a fantastic opportunity to learn new things and meet new people.
Get it right and you’ll return to the office feeling invigorated and inspired, eager to share your learnings and ideas with the rest of your team. But get it wrong and it’s an entire day (or more) wasted that could have been much better spent. Unfortunately, years of attending seemingly worthless events are enough to make even the most ambitious procurement professionals skeptical about their value-add.
We’ve no doubt your 2020 calendar is already starting to fill up, and so we’ve compiled five steps to help you get the most out of your procurement conferences in the coming months.
Step One – Get approval
Increased eLearning opportunities and tighter budget control are making it trickier than ever for procurement professionals to gain approval to attend external events. If there’s a conference you’re especially interested in, ensure you’ve put together a strong business case before you approach your boss. Why do you want to go, what will you (and the company) get out of it and who are you interested in meeting? If you already know your organisation is being economical with spending in this area, it’s all the more important for you to select conferences wisely and keep your requests to a minimum. A free overseas trip or a couple of days out of the office are not good reasons to attend a conference.
Step Two – Plan ahead
Depending on the size of the conference, it’s unlikely you’ll have time to meet everyone you’d like to or attend every single presentation, which means it’s useful to plan ahead and prioritise. Some conferences, such as ISM’s annual conference in the USA, run hundreds of sessions over two days with attendees having to choose from up to six sessions running concurrently.
If your primary reason for attending a conference is to hear from industry thought leaders, you might want to pack your day with back-back sessions. However, if you’re also there to network, speak to technology providers and collect contacts, you’ll want to leave some space in your schedule.
To ensure your meetings are worthwhile, reach out to other conference attendees in advance to schedule some time together or simply to let them know you’re attending and would like to catch up.
Remember, planning is good, but over-planning prohibits spontaneity and curiosity. By all means, select a few sessions you’re certain to attend, but leave some things to chance – you never know who you might meet.
Step Three – Maximise your time
It’s all very well making a conference plan, but that plan has to be actioned. It’s no use sitting in multiple sessions if you don’t listen or you simply forget what was said as soon as the next one starts. To maintain your focus take notes throughout, writing down a few key takeaways for each session and any action points or ideas to raise with your team.
When it comes to networking, don’t spend the entire conference with peers you already know very well. If you don’t have a specific target list, make a point to introduce yourself to ten people, collect business cards and engage with the conference exhibitors. If there’s a conference app, use it. It can help you plan your day and make it easier to connect with other attendees.
Step Four – Be Visible
A great way to raise your (and your company’s) profile is to directly get involved with the conference either as a panellist, speaker or presenter. Conference organisers may reach out ahead of events looking for volunteers but it’s always worth reaching out of your own accord to offer your involvement.
Step Five – Follow-up
Don’t walk out the door at the end of a conference only to instantly forget everything you’ve learned and everyone you’ve met. If you’ve planned your time wisely and thrown yourself into the conference’s opportunities, you’ll have a whole host of follow-up tasks to complete. Once you’re back in the office go through the business cards you collected and get in touch to set up phone calls or meetings.
Set up some time to share both your experiences and your new contacts. If the conference was a huge success, and you’ve returned bursting with ideas and actions, why not prepare a presentation to talk through with your team?
Most importantly, approaching any procurement conference with a positive attitude is the best way to ensure you get something useful out of it. Best of luck for 2020 and happy conferencing!