By Cricket Robertson, FSMPS, CPSM
I wrote an article a couple of years ago about marketers scratching their own itch or, in other words, sharing their success stories with the entire industry to help us solve our common problems. We all encounter the same challenges and obstacles in our work. Not only is sharing our experiences good karma, it advances our careers and companies industrywide. With more effective marketers and business developers come more successful companies. This is a cycle in which we contribute to our companies, our companies invest in our professional and personal growth, we continue to perform and contribute optimally, and they continue to support our efforts and involvement in SMPS. This is truly a win-win situation. Taking my own advice, I am sharing how I ensure a greater return on the investment in my conference attendance, whether at Build Business, an SMPS regional conference, or other industry event.
As SMPS members, we understand the value of attending Build Business and regional conferences. But convincing our companies and our bosses can be a challenge. Not only have I learned some tips for getting approval to attend conferences, I’m also learning how to put the information I gain at these conferences to work when the events are over. Applying best practices and lessons learned goes beyond just walking back into the office on Monday morning following a conference. It takes a little thought, effort, and commitment, but it is easier than you might think. Below are steps you can take to share with your colleagues what you have learned and to help your company continue to invest in your conference attendance.
Focus on Three Ideas
After a conference, we return to work full of ideas and enthusiasm. We are ready to conquer the world and teach our technical staff how to be better business developers immediately. But then that enthusiasm fizzles out as the week goes on, and we find ourselves back in the proverbial grind, forgetting to use the new and sharpened tools we just added to our toolboxes.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that it is unrealistic to apply everything I learn at a conference immediately. Instead, I focus on the top three takeaways. Once I have implemented those three tools or concepts effectively, I can focus on a couple more, and so on.
Taking my most recent experience as an example: One of the overarching themes of Build Business: Dream Big! was storyboarding. When I got back to work on Monday after that conference, I had one proposal and one interview waiting for me. I made time and got prepared. I took storyboarding examples from various breakout sessions, combined them into one document, and tweaked them to make my document company-specific. I walked into my meetings with these storyboards already outlined and used them as discussion tools. These specific storyboards were something new to my technical staff, but they were receptive and appreciated the time I dedicated to preparing them. While these storyboards are living documents and are changing as we develop and refine our win strategies and messages, they are valuable tools to facilitate discussion and see how everything ties together.
Share What You’ve Learned
Other ways to share what you have learned at a conference or professional development workshop include:
- Organize training sessions for staff – These can be simple lunch ’n learn/brown-bag sessions, nothing formal or labor intensive, during which you share the resources, industry best practices, and case studies you picked up from the expert presenters at the conference. Offering real-world examples goes a long way toward establishing the credibility of best practices. These training sessions also demonstrate that you take your job and the company’s success seriously, resulting in better working relationships.
- Share the handouts, presentations, and tools – This is one of the easiest things you can do to extend the ROI on your conference investment. Most companies can’t afford to send the whole marketing department to a conference, but you can share the tools and presentations with your coworkers when you return. I put the resources in one convenient location where the marketing staff can access them. Then, I write an email about my top three lessons learned, including recommendations on applying them to the firm, and send it to my coworkers with an invitation to go through the materials and pick out the ones that interest them the most. They will have different ideas about how to use those tools, resulting in an even stronger, more effective marketing team.
- Write articles about your implementation successes – Pitch your articles to SMPS and other industry publications to educate your peers and their firms.
These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg. Make it easy for your firm to say yes when you request to participate in a professional conference by committing to share your new knowledge for the betterment of the firm. The end results are more effective marketers and business developers, more successful firms, and a greater return on the conference investment.