By Elizabeth Cole, U.S. Rehab
I recently attended the International Seating Symposium in Nashville, Tenn. This was a three-day conference packed with instructional sessions, exhibits, meetings and social activities. The 2,000 attendees hailed from 35 countries around the world and 49 out of 50 states in the U.S. And yet it felt like a big family reunion. What a great opportunity to soak in education, network with others, see product and have fun all in one place, all at one time. In this age of technology, there are many effective and efficient ways to learn while sitting at our desks, but in my mind there is nothing quite like a live conference. So here are my top five reasons to encourage you to attend an industry conference:
- Opportunity to gain valuable information and knowledge through instructional sessions
Whether the focus of the conference is primarily education, primarily product or a combination of both, most conferences in our industry provide instructional sessions on a variety of topics within one content area and even within a variety of content areas. Here is the opportunity to be exposed to new theories regarding the evaluation of the people you serve and the application and provision of the products that you provide. Some conferences offer sessions that report results from scientific research to support what we do and how we do it. Other sessions provide ways to survive funding challenges, including tips for documentation and billing practices and how to handle audits and reviews. You can learn about better ways to run your business or new business opportunities, as well as updates on policy changes and legislative issues that affect your business. And all of this is taught by industry experts and may have the added bonus of providing those all-important CEUs, all in one place, all at one time
- Take advantage of the benefits of on-site in-person education
We do have many different ways these days to receive very effective and informative education through the marvels of technology including webinars and online courses. But there is just nothing quite like an in-person, on-site lecture or course. In this media, you have the opportunity to ask questions directly to the speaker and receive a personal response. You can clarify your question if it is not well understood or the reply is not complete. You have the opportunity to query the speaker in person for more information or resources. In some sessions there might also be the potential for interaction between audience members and the speaker, or even between the audience members themselves for sharing of information and ideas. And the speakers can benefit as well. These in-person formats give the instructors the ability to “read” the audience’s response to their lecture style, ask questions of the audience, evaluate whether or not the content meets their needs, and adjust accordingly. This is a win-win for all.
- The opportunity to see, touch and evaluate product in the exhibit hall
You can always “see” product in marketing pieces and through information provided on a manufacturer’s website. You might even see the latest greatest product presented in a quick group inservice provided by a manufacturer’s rep. These all provide valuable information about the products. But there is nothing quite the same as assessing it up close and personal in a booth in the exhibit hall. This is the opportunity to see not only what’s new, but perhaps what’s not so new as well. You have undivided one-on-one attention from the manufacturer, which gives you the chance to ask questions and give feedback. You can touch the actual product, examine all of its features and even “try it out.” And you might even see booths with products that you didn’t even know existed, but would be great to add to your product line and offer to your customers.
Sometimes some of the biggest benefits to attending a conference are not achieved in the exhibit hall or in the meeting rooms, but are realized around the coffee machine or in the hallway or at the dinner table or even at the bar! This is a chance to make contacts from people all over the country who are doing the same things that you are doing. As someone out in the field, you might pick up tips on different ways to evaluate and serve your customers, better ways to document your findings, different methods of service delivery, better ways to measure your outcomes and tips on how to get things funded. As a business owner, you might make contacts that lead to business referrals or new areas of business. You might discover how others are coping with policy changes in different parts of the country. You never know when the industry friend you make today can be invaluable to you in the future as a reference or a resource.
- Renew and reinvigorate
But I think one of the most valuable aspects of attending an industry conference is the opportunity to get recharged. There is something about spending time with others who have the same goals, speak the same language and feel your same “pain” that provides you with new energy and a renewed desire to continue forward. This is a time to celebrate and commiserate with others who have the same desire to provide the best possible products and services for their customers while still staying in business. This is an opportunity to get away (to some degree) from the day-to-day routine, clear your head and get excited again about what you do.
And now for the great news! The Heartland conference is coming up in June (15–18) and offers all of the above! Three days of educational sessions taught by industry experts and the opportunity to walk the large exhibit hall to see and touch all of the different products. And, of course there are opportunities each evening for networking and fun at the social events, including the traditional hog roast and spectacular fireworks, the exhibit hall reception and the VGM gala with dinner and dancing. Don’t miss this all-inclusive conference for learning, growing and recharging! For more information, go to http://www.vgmheartland.com