How To Get the Most Out Of Convention: A Member’s Perspective

By Rich Lindblom, YSN

I have been to upwards of 25 Conventions and Summits in my 15 years as a BrandSource member.

The first year I joined, I only attended the Fall Convention, held that August in Las Vegas, because I had heard early on that it was the larger and more important of the two shows. (And, if I’m being totally honest, it was also because I love Vegas!) But after a few years I started going to both shows, not only because I enjoyed them, but because I found them very worthwhile.

Based on my experience, there are five keys to getting the most out of a Convention or Summit:

  1. Product training
  2. Learning
  3. Networking
  4. Follow up
  5. Follow through

Let’s start with product training, which the manufacturers spend a lot of time, effort and resources to bring you at every show.  Now I know there are some dealers who skip the sessions because they think they’re boring.  But I always tried to attend the trainings without fail, because I always left them knowing things I didn’t know before.  Maybe it was special features and sometimes it was just about how the product actually worked.  But no matter what the focus, I always returned to my store wiser than when I left.

Now you may think that learning is the same as product training, but to me it’s a totally different category.  I loved the educational sessions and always tried to take in as many as my schedule would allow.  In fact, I would review the entire agenda the week before the show and make myself a schedule for each day so I could catch every session that interested me.

These were hosted by professionals who were hand-picked by BrandSource to share their expertise with the members, and I for one tried to take as much advantage of it as I could.  Sure, there’d be an occasional dud in mix, but if I sat in on five or six sessions, you could bet there’d be plenty of new ideas swimming around in my brain.  Sometimes it would be a small thing that needed to be thought through a little deeper, but other times it was something that I couldn’t wait to implement as soon as I got back to my store.

The third key, networking, just might be the most important of them all, because with so many members at each show, there are countless success stories waiting to be shared.  No two members do things exactly alike, which means there are an endless number of ways to be successful in your business.  But those members aren’t just going to walk up to you and offer advice, you need to ask for it.  Which means you must not only meet with people, but you must also talk to them.

I know that isn’t an easy thing for some folks to do, but I can honestly tell you that I don’t think I ever met a member who wasn’t willing to help another member if asked.  I personally found great enjoyment in trying to help a member if they asked for it, and I’m pretty sure most members feel the same way.  So go out there and identify people that you look up to or that you know are doing things well and introduce yourself, hang around with them, and chat.  You’d be amazed at how much you can learn just by asking questions and listening to the answers.

Now about follow up: The very first thing I did when I got back to my store after a show was to compile all my pages of notes into two Word documents.  In the first document were things that applied to my staff which I would share with them, such as product knowledge, selling techniques and the like. In the second document I would add all the tips and best practices that were for me to implement, such as things about the business I needed to change or new techniques or approaches I wanted to try.

The final key to getting the most out of Convention is follow through.  If networking isn’t the most important key, then follow through certainly is because, let’s face it, the first four steps don’t mean a thing if you don’t follow through.  My personal goal for every show I attended was to leave with at least one meaningful idea that I could apply at my store to make my company more efficient or more profitable or maybe just a better place to work.  I can say with a great degree of certainty that I never fell short of that goal — and neither should you. 

For those of you who haven’t been to one in years, believe me when I tell you that today’s shows are not the Summits and Conventions of the past. The educational opportunities seem to get better every year.  So, if you feel like you didn’t learn anything ten years ago and never returned, I urge you to try it again.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the changes that have taken place over the past six years or so. 

Fortunately, it’s not too late to attend. You can still register for Convention21 online or do so on-site in Nashville.

It’s always gratifying when someone reaches out to me after reading one of my columns because it struck a particular chord with them. So, if you have a question or comment (good or bad) about something I wrote about, please contact me at egvrich@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you.