by Robert D. Katz
It’s the 15-year anniversary of the Turnaround
Management Association (TMA), and you have just received the Annual Convention
brochure in the mail. “Great event! Great programming! Great city! Great
networking opportunities!” you think.
“I’m going to make the investment and attend my
first TMA convention!”
Congratulations. You will have a great time and meet some of the best
people in the corporate renewal industry. Now that you have made the decision,
the question is, how do you make the most of your convention experience, both
personally and professionally? Having attended more than a dozen TMA and other
conventions, I have a few ideas.
Try to book
an early flight or, if you are coming from the opposite coast, fly in the
evening before. With airline delays and cancellations occurring more frequently,
you should allow enough time to make sure you arrive early and can check in at a
relaxed and relatively leisurely pace.
Depending on the time of day, you should allow 45 to 60 minutes to travel
from the airport to the Hyatt Regency San Francisco, where the convention is
being held. If you are in San Francisco solely for the convention and don’t plan
to stay longer, there’s probably no need to rent a car. Activities at most TMA
conventions are usually at the hotel or within easy walking distance. If
transportation is needed, TMA usually provides it. If all else fails, you can
usually grab a cab.
By arriving and registering early, you can obtain the attendance list and
target people you want to meet. This is critical for maximizing your networking
opportunities. More than 1,000 people are expected to attend this year’s Annual
Convention, so you can’t see and spend time with everybody. The attendance list
can help you choose, focus, and target who you want to meet.
Attend as many events as possible, and stay as long as you can.
everyone has clients and customers to service and that may, at times, divert our
attention from the convention. Certainly this comes first!
However, every missed convention event is a lost opportunity to meet
people and to land a new customer or client. Keeping in mind that the convention
is just a different type of workday, I try not to skip any programs or parties,
If you’re from the East Coast, there is a little better opportunity for
scheduling, although it comes with a price — waking up and conducting business
before your normal office hours. But a fresh cup of coffee can get you through
that 8 a.m. E.S.T./5 a.m. P.S.T. conference call.
Again, things happen, so we often must cut the trip short. However, I
think it’s important to commit to staying for the entire conference. Chances are
that during the year, there will be few, if any, opportunities to meet so many
people in one place. Given the time and money that you have invested in the
event, it makes sense to maximize convention value by staying for the entire
time, if at all possible.
Make time to visit the Exhibit Hall.
two important functions. First, it’s a great place for networking. But second —
and maybe even more important, if you have young children, nieces, nephews, or
grandchildren — there are enough trinkets for you to take home to last until
Thanksgiving. Sometimes the giveaways have been so good that I’ve had to use an
extra bag to carry my souvenirs home.
I make it a
point to invite people with whom I do business consistently for a cocktail,
breakfast, lunch, or dinner. These social/ business get-togethers between
convention sessions are a good way to start the day, take a midday break, or
finish the day. They provide a pleasant way to spend time with people with whom
you’ve had successful relationships over the year or with whom you are trying to
develop new relationships or broaden existing ones.
If you find a nice place away from the convention “home hotel,” it also
gives you and your guests a chance to experience something unique and special
about the host city.
Get fresh perspectives on the business climate.
There are a
handful of people I have come to know through these conventions. We see each
other once or twice a year at these events, and I look forward to spending time
with them. We talk about the general business climate, good and bad, in the
different regions of the country. It helps me gain a fresh perspective about
what is happening elsewhere, which helps me do my job better.
By developing this continuity with people from around the United States
and internationally, it also helps to broaden my marketplace.
At the end
of the evening, you can usually find small groups of people chatting at the
hotel bar, long into the night. By this time, hopefully your experience has
matched mine at TMA conventions — most of the people you meet are polite and
friendly and, like you, are interested in expanding their networks. Most also
remember what their first convention was like, when they knew few attendees, and
they’ll welcome you into their group.
People who have gathered for more conversation at the hotel bar usually
will still be wearing their convention badges. Approach them, even if you don’t
know anybody in the group. The price of admission is usually buying the next
round of drinks.
Bring plenty of business cards.
happened to all of us at one time or another. You rush out the door and halfway
to the airport, you realize you forgot your business cards or that you didn’t
bring nearly enough. Don’t panic. If having cards sent to you overnight from
your home base is not an option, the hotel business center can usually print
some temporary ones for you. While the stand-ins probably won’t look quite as
spiffy as your usual cards, generic cards are better than no cards.
Experience the host city.
reason to stay for the entire convention is that it gives you additional
opportunities to experience some of the distinctiveness of the convention city.
At TMA’s Annual Conference last year in Colorado Springs, for example, I walked
around the U.S. Air Force Academy and the Olympic Training Center.
For me, nothing is better in San Francisco than getting up early in the
morning, having a cup of coffee and taking the cable car down to Fisherman’s
Wharf. You get a taste of the city as the cable cars travel through different
ethnic neighborhoods, pass the curviest street in the world, and drop you off a
short walk from Ghirardelli Square.
If you have a car and the time, California’s wine country is about an
hour’s drive away. Take a two-hour drive south, and you reach one of the most
spectacular scenic areas in the U.S., the Monterrey Peninsula, and one of the
most sacred golf havens in the world, Pebble Beach. It’s well worth the trip.
Just put the top down and go cruising.
Get more involved in TMA activities.
while winding down one day at the convention, you decide you’d like to get more
involved in TMA? Look for Executive Director Linda Delgadillo or members of her
staff from TMA headquarters in Chicago —they’ll all be wearing green “staff”
ribbons on their name badges. If it’s happening in the world of TMA, they can
direct you to the right spot!
you return home, try to follow up on the contacts you made at the convention.
It’ll keep your name fresh in their minds. That may take you some time,
though—you’re likely to add scores of people to your business network after
attending just one TMA convention.