Greetings from Nashville! I am in town for the 2015 ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement (#wcqi15 for hashtag lovers)! This will be my third time attending the WCQI (see reports on 2013 and 2014), and again I will be spending the majority of my time in session judging presentations for the ASQ International Team Excellence Awards (ITEA). The conference “begins” Monday morning, but I have prior obligations with ASQ leadership and training events starting today and carrying over through Sunday all day.
How do you decide which ones to attend? Do you stay close to home or is international travel desired or necessary? If you travel, do you go to learn, network, or both?
When it comes to selecting what conferences to attend, I’m pretty particular and I gauge the value I will gain from attendance by how I answer these questions.
– Are there problems I am looking to solve by attending?
Conference attendance is generally expensive – flight, hotel, meals, materials, time, and your reservation for the conference. However, when I am a general attendee, I come equipped with some problems I’ve encountered that are best solved with face-to-face meetings with subject matter experts. For example, I have worked with a couple of clients recently who lack robust quality management systems and are/were looking at vendor options. It’s somewhat time consuming to pore through Google searches, Thomas Register, and vendor websites when those kinds of vendors are generally part of the conference trade show and have experts ready and able to provide guidance. By coming prepared with problems for which you seek solutions, you will be making the most of your time.
Otherwise, if I’m attending just to watch presentations or catch up with old friends, I can probably spend my time and money more wisely.
– Is there a special event or obligation tied to attending?
The ASQ WCQI is the only time I am able to judge the ITEA Finals. I make it a high priority to support this initiative with ASQ, and I am happy to dedicate a lot of my conference time to judging presentations and providing valuable feedback to participants.
Also, one day I hope to present at the WCQI. Try as I might, I have not yet been successful in the ASQ search for presenters. I certainly give higher priority to events that allow me to present new ideas and information.
Other reasons for attending due to special occurrences might be for receiving recognition or an award. ASQ provides a special recognition dinner for its member leaders and participants for special initiatives, so I will be participating in that this week. I’m still pretty young in my quality career, so no awards up for grabs quite yet.
– What will be my level of participation or engagement?
Again, if I’m just there to see sessions and catch up, my participation is pretty low. I am self-employed and I don’t have a corporate sponsor or employer to subsidize my trip, so my time on the road is very valuable. I am extremely engaged in any conference I attend and my schedule is always full.
ITEA judging takes up a lot of my time during WCQI, but even during down times I am poring through the presentation schedule to see if there is something I really want to see or I am heading to the trade show to meet with new companies and solve those previously identified problems…as well as snag some swag.
Even during the evening hours there are generally great events to attend and new people to meet.
– Will that level of participation and engagement be sustained throughout the event or peak for a very short time relative to the full duration?
When I attend a conference, I keep my schedule full in order to maximize value. If I am there just to see one speaker or visit one booth before departing, there is not much value to be gained. If I am a speaker, but then I have no other obligations or experiences tying me to the rest of the event, the value there is limited as well. This year, as in past years, I am fully booked for the ASQ WCQI and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
– What is the cost of attendance (dollars, time, and opportunity costs)?
This is always an important detail. I’m fortunate that part of my conference attendance is subsidized by ASQ for being an ITEA judge, but that doesn’t cover all the other costs of attendance (hotel, transportation, food, other incidentals). This year I drove to Nashville, but last year I flew to Dallas. Next year’s ASQ WCQI will be in Milwaukee and I will likely drive for that (a long drive, but I will make a mini-vacation out of it through stops in Indiana to visit family and my old stomping grounds).
ASQ conferences are spread throughout the country, but there are many other nearby conferences and events outside of ASQ that provide value but have costs as well. I am a member of two ASQ sections (Savannah River Section in Augusta and Columbia SC Section) that both have monthly meetings, and I’ve previously written about TEDxColumbiaSC and attended again this year.
The Shingo Conference is held in Utah the same week as the ASQ WCQI, which creates conflicts for some of the Lean superstars I would presume. One day I would like to attend the Shingo Conference.
– What can I accomplish only through in-person attendance that I can’t do otherwise (meetings online/over the phone, training online/books, etc.)?
As previously indicated, I can’t judge the ITEA presentations from my home office and it’s just not the same if I can’t meet with so many vendors in such a small amount of time. That being said, conference presentations can be viewed online and there are many outlets for training outside of conferences.
However, many attendees to the ASQ WCQI do so for collecting professional development credits or recertification units. I concede that is a nice indirect benefit for me, but it’s certainly not my primary purpose for attending (I collect enough RU’s through many other methods).
– Is this event new for me and an opportunity to branch out to a whole new group of people, or is this a repeat event?
While I have made repeat appearances at the ASQ WCQI and TEDxColumbiaSC, the content is always different. Other conferences or events I’d like to consider attending down the road include the Shingo Conference, regional conferences for ASQ divisions and sections, and even events through AME.
When evaluating whether or not to attend an event, these are questions I ask and they don’t all have to be affirmative. For example, the TEDxColumbiaSC events are not heavily engaging and not all of the presented content is ideal for me, but it’s nearby and inexpensive to attend plus it’s a one day obligation. The material presented is informative and creative, which is the value I receive from attending.
For attending conferences, I’ve put together a quick rundown of suggestions on what folks can do to get the most of their time and money. If you’re coming to the ASQ WCQI in Nashville, drop me a line or find me on Twitter!
I’m part of the ASQ Influential Voices program. While I receive an honorarium from ASQ for my commitment, the thoughts and opinions expressed on my blog are my own.