I am about to say something controversial, training classes are great, and education is essential. However, the network you build at summits, symposiums, workshops, and conferences is invaluable. When I attended a summit or conference, I appreciated the diversity of perspectives and many breakout sessions. These events are where professional development and individual growth take place. And summits promote more profound understanding, uncover new learnings and reinforce existing best practices.
At each event I attend, I meet great people and connect with old friends. You get to see what works in other parts of the world, not just in the town or county next to you.
We know — it’s hard to take time away from work. So a conference has to be worthwhile to justify the days out of the office. If that is the case for you, virtual summits work as well. 85% of professionals believe that meeting face-to-face (or zoom-to-zoom) builds stronger, more meaningful relationships. So it goes without saying that large-scale events are the perfect opportunity to expand your network and find potential new mentors and collaborators.
It is important to remember that networking takes many forms, so don’t rely on planned sessions within the conference itself. Go the extra mile. Arrive early, seek out ‘post-conference’ events, use the conference app (if they have one) to reach out directly to someone you find interesting, and be sure to have a healthy stack of stand-out business cards at your disposal. My friend is now using a digital business card, and it is on a wristband. Whatever you use, don’t be the person fumbling around with a pen and paper.
Summits in person are about the experiences. In-person events provide opportunities that you cannot get by reading articles, listing to podcasts, or watching a video. Even online summits give you opportunities to interact with others.
Every conference session you attend is an opportunity to have your questions answered by experts. It’s also an opportunity that many attendees neglect. So come prepared and take advantage. Map out your conference sessions in advance and brainstorm a few questions for each topic. It may be that the presentation answers all your questions, but if not, you’re ready to pick the speaker’s brains. When I speak at conferences and summits, I enjoy talking to people that attended my session. I encourage people to continue the conversation over coffee or as we walk in the hallway.
What are conferences, symposiums, workshops, and summits about?
They are about inspiration. When it comes to innovation of thought and innovation of action, this is the place. Everybody working the event is focused on the best ways to provide unforgettable experiences. The attendees are looking to be inspired by the speakers and other attendees.
It’s about real-world examples. Leaders from around the world want to share their strategies and their success stories. You’ll leave with plenty of practical takeaways you can bring back to the office.
It’s about networking. Talk to other attendees who are experiencing the same challenges you have. Find out what’s working for them, and share what works for you.
Make it a point to attend an event this year. The 2022 Emergency Management Leadership Summit is free and has a host of great speakers that you can get to hear and interact with.
If you are looking for a great event in New York, the NDEM Expo is November 16-17, 2022, and The International Association of Emergency Managers is November 11-17, 2022, in Savannah, GA. I hope to see you at an event this year; stop and say hi and let’s chat.
What to Read
As Emergency Managers, we sometimes find ourselves at the negotiation table for issues like budget allocations, acceptable mitigation measures, contracts, or employee compensation. This is a unique aspect of the profession that not all expect or are prepared for, especially those new to the profession. The art of negotiation is a skill that takes time to develop, experience to be good at, and maturity to be comfortable with. Have you ever found yourself in a negotiation? How about a better negotiator? Think about the first time you bought a car discussing the price with the salesperson, were you prepared for that process? How did you feel after the deal you made? I was intimidated and left the dealer feeling violated and later embarrassed when I told my friends about the process and the ridiculous deal I agreed to. I was unprepared and too immature for the process, but I learned my lesson, grew from it, and got a much better deal on the next cars I bought. I think this book does for readers; it gives us good techniques for approaching any negotiation so everyone can walk away from the table with a good deal.
This is a public episode. If you would like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit emnetwork.substack.com