By Marisa Ruffles. With the 24th Annual NASPP Conference and Exhibition coming up next week, we wanted to make sure you get the most out of your time in Houston. Attending conferences can be a struggle when trying to choose from a jam-packed schedule full of inspiring breakout sessions and balancing that with authentic, meaningful networking all while maintaining your day-to-day workload. You need to make the most of your time at the conference and here are 7 ways to do it.
1. Clean up Your Outlook Calendar NOW
Be sure to reschedule any weekly recurring meetings and postpone any of items that are on your calendar. Perhaps there is a cross-functional meeting scheduled while you are away that is critical to moving a project forward.
If you must attend, make sure you have a game plan about where you can take the call and what information you need to have prepared to be a productive member of the conversation. Also, be sure to block yourself as out of the office so colleagues are aware that you will be unavailable.
2. Plan Your Conference Agenda Ahead of Time
The week leading up to a conference can be hectic. You’re preparing to be out of the office for a considerable amount of time which means clearing your schedule, making sure any high priority actions can be covered by colleagues, and tying up any loose ends. But in order to make the most of your time at the conference, be sure to set aside some time to review the agenda.
Make a conscious decision to attend the sessions will have the most impact on your current processes and will help you form your 2017 plans. This Harvard Business Review article provides advice on how to choose between competing sessions and proposes that “[a] session should fulfill either a content goal, meaning the talk will be educational, or it should fulfill an interpersonal goal, meaning you want to meet or support the person who is presenting.” Keep that in mind when building your schedule.
3. Determine 5 Takeaways You Want to Leave With
In conjunction with planning your schedule ahead of time, layout some specific takeaways that you want to get out of those sessions. What are you looking to bring back to the management team at your organization about next steps for your equity program or what are 3 precise best practices are you looking to gather from experts to improve a current workflow that is a current challenge for you. Looking to hear industry trends for next year from an equity compensation thought leader? Document it as a goal of the conference, and make it happen!
4. Find Out What Insiders Are Most Excited About
Typically each year of a conference brings one or two completely new experiences for attendees. Maybe it’s a new networking opportunity, a new track of sessions or simply a killer keynote speaker. Regardless of what the activity is, by gaining insight into what the organizers are most excited about, you’ll have inside information about a key experience at the conference that you won’t want to miss.
I reached out to Barbara Baksa, executive director at the NASPP, to find out what her team is most excited about. “The NASPP Conference is so much more than just our top-notch educational sessions,” said Baksa. “To get the most out of the Conference, take advantage of the programs we’ve included to help you connect with other attendees, like the small group discussions, the Ask the Experts booth, and the roundtable discussions. These are great ways to meet other attendees and build your network.”
5. Schedule Meetings with Vendors
In today’s work environment, technology is (or should be) a part of every strategy. The elimination of redundant manual work flows is a must and the risk associated with keeping them are a thing of the past. Not only should you plan to cruise the vendor hall, but why not choose 3 or 4 vendors that you are considering learning more about in 2017 and start the conversation now. This is your chance to engage face-to-face with that company, get a direct answer about functionality, probably get a short live-demo, and not be stuck in a long sales pitch. Conferences are fast-paced and so are these meetings.
6. Memorize a Few Icebreaker Questions
You may only have a moment in the lunch line or at the breakfast table to strike up a conversation with a fellow equity compensation professional, so have a few opening questions on the tip of your tongue. Keep a few of these in your pocket to jump-start the conversation.
- Which speaker/panel are you most excited for?
- Have you been to this conference before?
- Is this your first time in [city]? Did you fit in any non-conference activities?
7. Connect with the people you meet on LinkedIn
The benefits of attending a conference don’t end with the closing remarks. Technology and social networks allow us to maintain and build professional relationships from anywhere. Don’t just collect business cards of new people that you meet, find them on LinkedIn and connect! LinkedIn provides a tremendous opportunity to keep those doors of communication open outside of email, and it allows you to maintain that connection no matter where you end up career wise.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median number of years that wage and salary workers had been with their current employer was 4.2 years. Email addresses are only good as long as people stay where they are, once people change companies, you’ve lost that communication vehicle.
The 24th Annual NASPP Conference and Exhibition is the yearly event for equity compensation professionals, and while it does span 4 days, the time will fly by. Make the most of this event; boost your industry knowledge, gather best practices, keep an ear out for trends and network, network network!
Marisa Ruffles is the Director of Marketing at Certent and passionate about delivering engaging and practical content to help finance and equity professionals do their jobs better. When she’s not driving engagement through data-driven marketing strategies, Ruffles can likely be found belting out a sweet karaoke version of Billy Ocean’s Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car.