It’s no great observation to explain the unprecedented value that online resources, such as industry forums like KilnDrying.org, provide to the forest products industry. These types of sites are invaluable resources to get immediate practical advice, learn about jobs, and hear directly from industry experts.
Indeed, some have begun to question the need for in-person events. This is a mistake. As valuable as online sources are for their immediacy and permanency, we’re still human and nothing can forge relationships faster or motivate groups more effectively than face-to-face networking and collaboration.
So in case you were starting to doubt: Here’s some reminders about why you need to be attending forest industry event:
1. Forest Product Events Get You More Business
The most common argument against attending conferences is that it’s hard to justify their costs, especially when compared against online marketing opportunities. However, the conference and online marketing play very different roles in your sales cycle. The online opportunities cast a wide net. The conference is the opportunity to finally reel in some big fish. Phone calls and emails can only take you so far.
When you’re talking about high dollar, relationship-based sales, an in-person meeting is the fastest way to close that deal. Attending an event where you can meet with multiple prospects is actually the most cost-effective way to do that. You know the cost of sending salespeople on individual visits to prospects and clients located all around North America.
A conference is the ideal place to strengthen, and possibly expand, relationships with current customers.
2. In-depth Exploration of Industry Trends and New Technologies
Any conference worth its salt will have a number of sessions that offer genuine insight into industry practices, technologies, and trends that will have real impact on your business. Just a quick look at the agenda for the IHLA convention, scheduled for the first week of February, shows talks on the impact of current environmental regulations and concerns, product knowledge development, and housing construction and design trends.
These sessions create a situation where you can learn incredible amounts of information in relatively short periods of time in a give-and-take atmosphere where you can have your questions answered directly and immediately.
3. Advance Industry Initiatives
While conferences are advantageous places to build your business and keep an eye on the competition, they’re also unique opportunities to come together as an industry. For example, it’s no secret that the forest products industry has had an unjustified public perception problem regarding its smart, effective utilization of our forests.
The gathering of all sorts of people from various aspects of the forest products industry and related groups allows for a broad-based collaboration that can advance everyone’s interests. In some cases, it may even lead to a formal collaboration on a specific project.
4. Unexpected Inspiration
Sometimes, just getting out of your routine and away from your typical business silo can bring unexpected inspiration. Having an accidental conversation with someone you’d never have thought to talk to, hearing an off-hand comment during a session–you never know what may spark your next great idea.
4 Tips to Get the Most from Attending a Conference
You do need to do more than just show up. Here are four tips to use so you really benefit from attending:
1. Set Clear Goals and Have a Plan, Including a Follow-up Plan.
Strategize beforehand what your goals are for going to this particular conference and create a specific plan to realize them. Any of the benefits listed above may be your key goal. Doing this review will help you prioritize your activities and even decide if more than one person needs to attend.
Also plan, before the conference, how you intend to make the most of what you learn and who you meet. Think about how you’ll transfer the knowledge (industry news, new technology, etc.) to those at your company who didn’t attend. What’s your follow-up plan with new leads?
2. Know Who You Want to Meet
This means knowing specific people you’d like to meet (that prospect you’ve been emailing with), as well as the types of people (public land managers, for example) you’d like to meet.
If you know of some specific people you want to talk with at the conference, schedule that even before you arrive. Then you’ll be sure to have set aside time. Do you already know that some interesting prospect or potential joint-venture partner will be attending that you’ve not yet met? Don’t be shy. Reach out before the conference and try to schedule a meet time with them as well.
As for making the most of chance meetings: Think about the types of people you want to meet–what sessions and activities are they most likely to be at? Make sure you attend as well.
3. Come Prepared
Whatever your goals, come with the tools to meet them. Whether it’s updated marketing materials, a good personal introduction, or a means to record the sessions (if allowed), make sure you have what you need with you.
4. Don’t be Business All the Time
Don’t be that one person standing outside the ballroom doors handing out business cards to everyone who walks by. Relationships get forged quickly at in-person events when you can relax, step out of business-mode, and just get to know each other, so take advantage of the social activities.
An in-person industry conference is an opportunity for networking and collaboration that just can’t be reproduced through other means. That’s why even the best online forums, such as KilnDrying.org, present calendars of upcoming events.
If you’re not already attending and making relationships at forest product events, you are missing out.