As a small business owner I have to admit, I used to dread going to conferences. I’m more of an introvert by nature, so the idea of facing hundreds of new people and “putting on a show” for a few days made the idea of staying home in my warm and comfortable office seem like a fantastic alternative. The plane ticket and hotel is going to cost too much, I know my competitors are going to be there so don’t want to step on their toes, I don’t want to feel like I’m back in high school again while all the cool kids are having dinner and partying while I’m hiding in my dark hotel room. I also know that going to a few conferences a year is good for business, and I didn’t like the guilt every time a good one passes by. Sound familiar?
It wasn’t until driving up from San Diego to incomestore.com’s Digital Footprint 2016 in Los Angeles last weekend (highly recommended) that I decide to shift my thinking. My approach had always been: what can I get out of it? How many leads can I come home with? What prestigious dinner can I invite myself to? I’ve tried that way of thinking every time in the past and results have been minimal, and sometimes downright embarrassing.
Instead, I decided to go to this conference with an attitude of learning and listening. What can I learn from the speakers and from everyone I talk to? How can I add value to what people are working on and are passionate about?
The results couldn’t have been better. Not only was I more comfortable because the pressure to perform was no longer there, I met some fantastic people doing incredible things, feel a fresh energy for my business and for life, and learned a number of things that I can now take back with me to better serve my team and clients (as long as these things are applied).
“Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” ― Edgar Wilson Nye
Here are 5 reasons why going to a conference is always a good idea.
Human interaction. This is particularly useful for people who primarily work from home. Unless you are active with friends, at church, and school, you just simply don’t get enough human, adult interaction. Conferences allow you to solidify existing relationships that were previously only a name in an email and a voice on a phone, and start new ones from a solid footing.
Provide value. Whether you are a speaker, giving actionable advice to someone during lunch, making connections, or donating to charities, there are ample opportunities to provide value at a conference. As mentioned above, I now believe the most rewarding conferences to go to are the ones where everyone has an attitude to give instead of get.
Learn and be inspired. Getting or staying up to speed in your industry will help you serve your customers better as well as pivot if/when your business needs to (thank you Adam Markel). Speakers as well as attendees have a wealth of experience, so take note of a few items that you are feeling inspired to take action on, those that give you goosebumps when you first heard it (thank you Brian Smith). And be thinking, “if my business could talk, what would it say it needs to grow?” so that you choose to attend the most valuable talks (thank you David Corbin).
Refresh from the work grind. While you can’t ignore clients at a conference, it’s important to fully immerse yourself into it while there. It’ll give you a positive distraction from work (sorry, reading news articles on the election isn’t one of those) and will hopefully result in you feeling inspired, energized, and get you into a social mood. Just like anything, when you practice talking to people, you get better at it!
Mastermind groups. I am certain Chris Yates started Rhodium Weekend and the mastermind group Rhodium Community for Online Entrepreneurs for one main reason: bringing together successful, like-minded people in a collaborative format can help individuals achieve more than going at it alone. Masterminds also help you stay accountable, create new business partnerships, gain a mentor, and allow you to be a mentor. There likely are established mastermind groups in your industry, and many of these members are active at conferences or online. If you aren’t able to join one of these groups by invitation (many have open door policies), look at starting one online through Facebook or Linkedin, or in your area through Meetup.com. They key is to encourage the group to be willing to help each other succeed.