As a small business owner you can easily overlook the need to attend conferences.When you are working in your business – making sales calls, ordering parts or managing people – it is easy to get caught up in the daily work needed to make your business run.
Small business owners know they should and need to attend conferences as a part of business growth. You most likely attended conferences, seminars and trainings and mastered the art of networking, partner identification and fund raising in order to get your venture off the ground through attending conferences.
The question we hear most often isn’t “should I attend a conference” but rather “how do I decide what conferences to attend for my company outside of the ones that the franchiser is promoting?”
This is a great question because there are so many conferences from which to choose. Just take a quick minute from reading and type “what small business conferences should I attend” and you will see many articles stating the top 14, 8 or 7 conferences for small business in the country. These articles give you a good summary of the pertinent content of each conference, but not a real good understanding of how to choose. The answer is, as it always is when it comes to these types of questions, it depends.
If you have no interest in contracting with the government, then spending your money at a procurement conference may not be the right choice. However, if participating in government contracts is in your company strategy, there are a few questions you need to ask when deciding which conference(s) to budget for and attend. This can be used for all conferences.
- Are there any franchise specific conferences you are required to attend as a part of your franchise commitment? This will significantly impact where you spend the rest of your valued resources.
- Do you have someone to continue to operate the business while you are away? If you have a solid management team or dependable employee you have more freedom to choose opportunities that may require up to a week of your time.
- Can you operate your business while you are on the road? If you do not have a dependable structure, having a flexible business that can be operated online or outside traditional operating hours will help.
- How long can you afford to close the doors if you do not or cannot? Knowing how many days you can operate without a cash flow is a must.
Now that you have these answers, go back to the google search and wander through the many conferences. Choose a few that on the surface you feel are interesting. Do not think too hard on them. Choose those that from the brief description sound like something you may want to attend. Choose them because they are being held in a location that you want to see. Or there is a keynotes speaker that seems fascinating or informative.
Now, take that list and let’s run it through the Three N’s Rule: Notice, News, Network checklist.
Will you be noticed by your clients at this conference? Do not assume or guess or wish. This is an important question that impacts your finances.
Will the people who will buy from you be in attendance? You can see this by looking at previous year’s attendee list or digging deeper into the description.
Do you need to be considered an authority in your industry? Awards and peer recognition can be very important to a small business owner. Is there an opportunity for you to speak where you can show how much you know about the small business you are in or small business operation in general?
Often times a conference may have committees that arrange volunteer activities for charities or social hours. Being a part of this
committee can help you get your name out in the paper, on the conference website or newsletter and bring in more notice.
Does this conference offer me the opportunity to grow professionally or connect you to others? Once you are in business, your need to network does not stop. You still should continue to reach out to your fellow small business owners for support, look for potential funding sources and business partners.
Keeping yourself educated on the small business world you have joined is a must for growth. Additionally, ensuring that you maintain a healthy mental acuity allows you to make sounder decisions when it comes to the operations of your small business. Conferences that offer professional development, personal development and spiritual development fall under this N.
Going back to the franchise requirements, run those conferences through the same test. Do not attend a conference that does
not have a clearly defined N for you. If the conference is a requirement, decide which one or more of these N’s you are there to
Once you have the hang of how to make these decisions, you may come up with your own test. Here at the Center we also use People – Partners – Politics for outreach decisions. It makes determining how to use your resources easier.
Good luck in the conference outcomes. If you need assistance, do not hesitate to reach out to our Center. The VBRC Crew stands prepared to assist.
Darcella K Craven has over 20 years of experience in corporate, government, non-profit and military organizations. She is currently the Executive Director of the Veterans Business Resource Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting Honorably Discharged Veterans, National Guard and Reservist and Active Duty personnel and their families with transitioning back into civilian life with starting and expanding businesses. An Army Veteran, she holds a Masters of Arts in Management from Webster University and is currently pursuing her Doctors of Management focusing on impact of military experience on small
business decision making. Darcella has been featured in numerous articles for her transition from the military and the welfare system to an accomplished business woman and is actively involved in many civic organizations.
For more information: www.vetbiz.com