The 2014 ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement is now over. While some of the ASQ Influential Voices have shared their experiences meeting folks and poring through presentations and keynotes via posts (see here, here, and here) and Twitter (and did a very good job of it, I might add), I actually got to see very few of them because I was a judge for the International Team Excellence Awards finals that took place during the conference.
What I did get to see, however, definitely made the trip and the work I put in for ITEA worthwhile. Let me start with comparing how I spent my conference time to what recommendations I make for conference-goers.
I arrived in Dallas on Saturday with the intent of training for the ITEA judging process early Sunday. Based on my judging panel’s schedule of team presentations for us to judge over Monday and Tuesday, I worked time into my schedule to see the trade show in the exhibit hall, attend special events in the evenings, and cross paths with individuals I had networked with via social media prior to arrival.
ASQ provided conference attendees with a great app that showed who all was attending (with the option of requesting contact information), a full schedule of events, and a map of the entire hotel with locations pinned for booths at the exhibit hall and presentation rooms. This app allowed attendees to create their schedule and use push notifications to alert them when their next event was scheduled to occur. Great, great tool.
This was my first opportunity to tell Daniel about how I had assisted with data, example, and grammar edit identification for the Certified Six Sigma Green Belt Handbook he had co-written with four other authors many moons ago, and how that had led me to some other great leadership opportunities with ASQ.
I was able to catch Jennifer and Daniel at a leadership recognition reception Monday evening, even though I came in super late after having a late ITEA presentation to judge and feedback to generate for the team. My schedule was definitely full all week.
The trade show in the exhibit hall was mostly comprised of software offerings (for quality systems management), new technologies for inventory management, schools recruiting for training and certification, book publishers (ASQ, CRC Press, and McGraw-Hill are all booths I visited), and the division/special interest groups recruiting for attendees to visit/subscribe to their sections.
It was really cool to talk with Michael Sinocchi of CRC Press. His company did the publishing of Mark Graban‘s books and we talked about how their authors are able to leverage social media not just to sell more books but to spread the teachings around to a wider audience. We also discussed the kinds of subjects and titles that might be part of the next iteration of quality improvement (*ahem*sports*ahem*).
In line with visiting all of those booths, I definitely acquired a significant amount of swag. Some I found intriguing or useful (the ASQ Design & Construction Division gave away squishy construction equipment – again), while other booths had filler giveaways (like pens and pamphlets and software samples/trials that I will never install) that were not particularly interesting.
Full disclosure: in addition to being a Lean guy, I am also a marketing guy. I concede that most folks participating in/attending/working at a conference about quality are going to be more technically savvy and not big on great ideas for marketing or advertising.
So I came away with a squishy backhoe, a weekly pill dispenser box from the ASQ Healthcare Division, a collection of tote bags…but outside of that there was nothing notable.
ATTENTION BOOTH OPERATORS AND MARKETING TEAMS: think about the problem you are trying to solve by having a booth there. You want people to notice your offerings, yes? You want people to look up your information, yes? Excellent. So who is attending? Quality folks – auditors, Lean or Six Sigma folks, consultants, educators, engineers, managers, leaders.
So what things would they notice? What would make you stand out? Think Purple Cow by Seth Godin. What makes you remarkable AND trustworthy?
Some software booths like Gemba Academy had experts walking potential buyers through the software or training modules on computers in their booths. Excellent.
Software booths with just flyers and marketing guys, but no opportunities for experts to show off the software? I’m going to pass.
The ASQ Lean Enterprise Division had a BINGO game – get signatures from certain types of people at the exhibit hall to fill out the card and win prizes. Forces networking, interaction, and competition. Also excellent.
Pen giveaways? Flyer giveaways? Software trials I have to install and they expire in 30 days? Boring. They hit the trash bin. Sorry, kids. I am very particular about my pen choices.
Quality Council of Indiana hiring Dallas Mavericks cheerleaders to sign posters and get pictures? Actually pretty offensive and sketchy. Not only would a large contingent of conference attendees be women (not a majority) that have now shut you out as a training offering, but there are also a lot of male attendees who see that marketing ploy as slimy. I’m not the only one who lost respect for QCI. There was no attachment to QCI and the cheerleaders – how did this help QCI sell anything?
Games and book giveaways that force me to interact and answer questions? I’m in.
Lots of “put your business card in the fishbowl to try to win an iPad” deals. Low interaction, I likely won’t win, I’m not coming back to your booth unless I win, and I just wasted a dime on business card printing that doesn’t help me with networking.
You want to do something cool? Make it fun for attendees to acquire or use your giveaways. Don’t give away things that just get pitched. Give things away that can be shown off on a desk (squishy construction equipment) or used/seen a lot that aren’t commodities (like pens). Do something novel.
It’s a conference full of introverts and quality geeks (is it stereotyping if I’m also stereotyping myself AND it’s true?) so play on that. I cannot WAIT until someone has a branded pocket protector giveaway.
(You know what? That’s my gift to you, marketing teams. That idea is free. I better see it next year in Nashville.)
Here’s a great example of how networking has really paid off for me.
Last year I met Dave Celata at the ASQ World Conference in Indianapolis as part of the Young Quality Professionals social event. He is the ASQ Social Responsibility Program Manager in Milwaukee now and I stopped by his Social Responsibility special interest group booth in Dallas. At his booth he introduced me to Michelle Mason, ASQ’s Managing Director. Michelle and I have now started talking about leadership opportunities for the Quality in Athletics special interest group and hope to capitalize on opportunities very soon. Michelle has also introduced me to individuals representing the member leader programs and other ASQ leaders.
I’m very excited to see how Quality in Athletics works out and how it will progress in years to come – to be a part of it would be phenomenal, and to think that had I not met Dave last year or stopped by his booth this year nothing might have gotten off the ground.
I’m in the process of reaching back out to everyone I met and whose business cards I received. If you’re at a conference, there’s a high likelihood you are a mover-and-shaker and I want to keep in touch with you.
My schedule was definitely full. In the middle of preparing for an ITEA presentation, we had a hotel fire drill!
And yes, it was just a false alarm – maybe someone accidentally pulled the switch. Leave it to quality folks to look at a fire drill and look at how to improve the process.
In our evening hours, besides going to receptions we also had the privilege of being invited to some hospitality suite events for ASQ divisions.
I attended one of the Lean Enterprise Division hospitality suites one night and met some great leaders there – Don Smith, LED’s education chairman, Chris Hayes, LED’s webinar chair, and Dave Harry, LED’s marketing chair. I talked with them about leadership opportunities with LED going forward.
I really bonded well with a few of my new quality friends at the conference, which definitely included discussions about wins and troubles. I spent a lot of time with my ITEA judging panel away from the projects and presentations and turned initial networking opportunities into genuine let’s-go-find-fun-stuff-to-do-together activities. The entire conference was great and exciting, and I cannot wait to do it all over again in Nashville in 2015.