Earlier this month I had the pleasure to attend the SMPS Southeastern Regional Conference (SERC) in Atlanta, Georgia. As anyone who has been to one of SMPS’s regional or national conferences can attest, these conferences are excellent learning and networking opportunities. Attendees hear from dozens of influential speakers who speak from their experience as industry leaders to impart wisdom on the day to day challenges facing marketers in the AEC industry. While it is easy for us marketers to understand the inherent value in our participation at these conferences, our employers may question whether the benefit outweighs the price tag associated with conference registration, travel, and lodging costs. If you are lucky enough to attend a SMPS or other industry conference, make sure you provide your management team with clear evidence that your continued attendance at these events will contribute to the bottom line for your company. Don’t let your experience at SERC or any other conference pass by without recapping your experience, creating an action plan, and following through on those actions, to guarantee that your most recent conference experience will not be your last.
While attending an industry conference, we are bombarded with all kinds of new ideas and information. After back to back to back seminars, one day after another, it is easy to forget about the key experiences and knowledge you want to retain and implement in your career. If you attended the conference with any of your peers, get together and discuss what you did or heard that you found most impactful. Talk about what you liked or didn’t like and write it down. Look over the conference agenda to help jog your memory about the things you may have already forgotten. Once you’ve captured your thoughts on paper, let these ideas sit with you, and start thinking about actions you can take to implement these ideas in your day to day work.
As you begin to identify actions you can take to improve your work performance, develop these ideas into a plan to be shared with your management team as an overview of your conference experience. Make sure to start your action plan with a description of the organization that hosted the conference, as well as the purpose of the conference. Your plan can include a commitment to read texts you discovered at the conference, research you plan to conduct on new ideas that caught your interest, and new methods you will use in conducting proposal work, presentations, or general marketing tasks. Present your management team with clear evidence of what you learned, and how you plan to use those materials to better inform your work as a marketer to win work for your company. Your action plan should include realistic ways you can immediately begin to implement your learnings to improve your performance. Once your plan is developed and shared with your management plan, stay true to your word and follow through with implementing these ideas.
If your action plan included new presentation techniques, make sure you give them a try when planning the next project interview. If you learned how to better write project profiles to appeal to your clients, try rewriting half a dozen project stories and share them with your management. At this year’s SERC conference, we learned new techniques to better serve clients from our early business development activities through project completion. Along with my team at PCL, we have used these techniques to identify specific actions that we are already implementing to improve relationships with clients and provide better service through our projects. Once management sees hard evidence of the knowledge you gained at SERC or any other conference – and witnesses your resolve to implement these findings in your work – signing off on your next conference trip will be all too easy.
While we all love going to industry conferences – not only as an opportunity to travel to a new city, spend time with our SMPS friends, and have a few days out of the office – don’t let the benefit of the informational sessions pass you, or your management by. Taking some time to recap your experience, creating an action plan, and following through with new methods and exercises to inform your everyday work will have tremendous benefits on your career. Not only will you be a stronger marketer, with new strategies to help your project teams win new work, you will be granted future opportunities to attend industry conferences and personal development opportunities with buy-in from your company’s senior leaders.