Next month I will be attending the ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement in Dallas, Texas. I had a great time attending last year in Indianapolis. While most folks attending the conference will be there for the speakers and learning opportunities, I will be spending most of my time judging the International Team Excellence Awards (ITEA). I’ve been fortunate to get the opportunity to judge the final round at the WCQI for the second year in a row – it affords me the chance to give back to ASQ as well as meet lots of other quality practitioners.
Attending conferences can be expensive though! Between the attendance fees, travel arrangements, and meals, it is quite the investment to attend such important events so it’s even more important to make that investment work for you and your company. I don’t get to conferences as often as I’d like, so when I do I make the most of it.
Here are some tips on how to make the most of any major conference you attend, whether it’s in quality or baseball or TED or any other subject and topic.
You generally have limited time to visit every single person and exhibit at a conference, but you typically are provided a schedule of events and a map in advance of the conference. Figure out what events are most important to you, identify interesting exhibits or companies in a trade show, and put together a schedule. Fitting other things in and around that schedule will be a lot easier to do and you’ll make sure you don’t miss out on something you felt was important.
The fact remains that most of the people attending a conference are going to share a lot of similarities with you. Lean and Six Sigma conferences bring out Lean and Six Sigma guys. Baseball Winter Meetings are filled with baseball guys and gals with similar backgrounds. They are going to share a lot of the same viewpoints and ideas and biases, and very little learning and growth occurs when everyone knows just as much as everyone else.
That’s why it’s important to have an open mind to folks with new ideas. Go to the trade show and see what is being sold. Try out the new gadgets. Talk with sales guys. Get free samples. Listen to presentations about topics in which you have no knowledge.
Sure, some of the things you hear won’t end up clicking or working for you. However, those booths and sales guys and presentations are at the conference because they have some degree of relevance or have the capability of adding value – you just might be getting in on the ground floor for something that makes a huge difference for you once you get back to your office.
The trade show will always have some snappy giveaways. Last year I had almost two bags full of swag I received from the WCQI conference, and I had a lot of swag from the 2011 Baseball Trade Show as well. Most of those items became giveaways for my blog contest but some of those items were really unique items that either became mementos of my attendance or were actually value-adding tools I used in my work.
If there are individuals with whom you are connected on social media (be it Twitter or LinkedIn or blogs you follow) that you have not met, try to arrange opportunities to meet them at the conferences.
Everyone has finite time from when they land to when it’s wheels up again. You don’t want to waste that time and money on activities that aren’t helping you get the most from your participation. You never know what you might miss by taking a significant break.
Many individuals come to conferences with issues and troubles in their own operations and are seeking answers or brainstorming ideas. Besides listening to learning opportunities don’t be afraid to do some cooperative brainstorming and share some of your best practices with new people.
You yourself should also bring some operational problems with you, with the intent of seeking out answers or strategies for solutions. Share share share! You never know where you might run into the answer you seek.
For more tips, check out outgoing ASQ CEO Paul Borawski’s guest post (written by Julia McIntosh) at A View From The Q.
I am excited to be attending the ASQ WCQI for the first time as an ASQ Influential Voice – many of the program’s authors are individuals I have followed online for years and I certainly look forward to the opportunity to meet them face-to-face.
And, of course, if you are attending the WCQI in Dallas drop me a line and we’ll try to cross paths! We’ll see you in Dallas!