June 2009 | How-To | Ten Tips

Optimizing Your Logistics Conference Attendance

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If you are spending time and money to attend a logistics conference, you should get the most out of it. Plenty of people and exhibitors will be vying for your attention and you need a plan of attack. The idea is not just to view, but to engage. Kathleen Hedland, director of education and research for the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, offers her best tips for optimizing logistics conference attendance.

1. Plan ahead. Review the conference program in advance and choose the sessions you want to attend. Plan to arrive at each session before it fills up.

2. Pack for your destination, but don't forget the environment inside the meeting venue.Make sure you have shoes comfortable enough to walk in and clothing you can layer, as temperatures in meeting rooms can vary.

3. Get to the registration desk a little earlier than you think you need to on the first day. This will give you time to get your bearings within the conference facility. Go back to registration every time you have a question. They are there to help.

4. Attend any special events for first-timers.Other first-timers will be there, but so will conference and industry veterans who can provide tips, show you the ropes, and help you maximize the value of your conference experience. Sessions for first-timers are also where you can find out how to get involved as an association volunteer.

5. Talk to everyone. You can often gain some of the best information outside the sessions—in hallways or in the hotel lobby.

6. Wear your name badge at all times, but introduce yourself to others as well. Logistics people are extremely welcoming. The person standing next to you may be dealing with the same "burning issue" as you, or may have a solution. Not all the experts at the conference are behind a microphone.

7. Engage with speakers.Ask general questions in the session that will benefit everyone; follow up with speakers later to ask specific questions that will benefit you. Take their contact information and reach out after the conference—speakers are usually generous with their expertise if you've participated in their session.

8. Visit the exhibition hall.Even if you're not in the market for new products or services, the latest and greatest will often be on display. You can see what the future may look like in the logistics segment, explore new services and technologies for solving your problems, and get an idea of what your competition is (or is not) doing.

9. Take advantage of built-in networking opportunities. Conference organizers understand the benefits of networking. If you've come with a group, split up and meet new people. Nowhere else but at a logistics conference can you be in touch with so many peers so quickly and inexpensively.

10. When you get home, take action. Call those people you said you would contact, check on the products and services that intrigued you, and put what you've learned into action. Share those takeaways with your colleagues. Stay connected with industry associations to continue learning from the best and brightest in your field.

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