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The ROI of attending industry events

Czosek at association meeting cropped

I recently had the privilege of attending an event, Disruption + Innovation: The Future Association Landscape, put on by .orgCommunity’s “Association 4.0 Think Tank.” The event gave me an opportunity to participate in excellent educational sessions, make wonderful new connections and catch up with long-time Chicago-area association friends.

Do you ever return to the office after attending an event like this, see all of the email that has piled up, and wonder if the time away from the office was worth it? I do. So I always take time to think about what I learned and how I can apply it. I evaluate whether attendance was a good use of my association’s resources, time and money and what I might have accomplished if I’d stayed in the office.

How do I know if an event was time well spent? Here are some quick questions I ask myself and how they played out for this particular event.

  • While at the event, do I feel inspired? Do I jot down notes? Do I collect tangible tools or information I can use to benefit the members of the associations I manage?
    I took way too many notes and had several ideas for potential articles and conference topics. I thought of a new product offering and how I could make it happen.
  • Do I make 3-5 new contacts who can help my clients?
    The answer on this one is a definite yes. I confirmed two presenters for an upcoming client event, approached a third individual for another and secured an author for a magazine article.
  • Are existing relationships strengthened?
    Another yes. I caught up with two people I’ve known over 25 years. As an added bonus, a number of members from the Wisconsin Society of Association Executives (an AMPED client) were present.
  • Am I intrigued enough by a topic to do additional research when I return to the office?
    Let’s just say that I spent a little time one evening reading and ruminating on CNBC’s Disruptor 50 list — a list of companies they say have the ability to upend multi-billion dollar industries. I thought about how those companies could impact the association industry, the hospitality industry and the industries represented by my client associations. Powerful stuff!
  • Do I share my experience with others?
    You bet! This one was an excellent experience and worth discussing.

By evaluating the answers to these questions, I determined that the “Association 4.0 Think Tank” event was definitely a wise use of my resources!

What was your return on investment of time and resources spent at your latest event? Do you have additional ways to evaluate whether your attendance was a good use of your time? If so, I’d love to hear about them!


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"I’m right on top of that, Rose!" — On-the-fly resources

Being an assistant means that my day-to-day is never exactly the same. It means I get thrown random tasks and assignments almost daily and it means that my brain power is sometimes spread a little thin and I have to rely on alternate resources to help me figure things out. 

One of my first weeks on the job presented a situation where a letter needed to go out in that day’s mail, and since our mail had been picked up already, it meant I needed to find the nearest mailbox. Stat. I took off, letter in one hand, smart phone loading Google maps in search of nearest mailbox in the other. For a brief moment, I felt just like Sue Ellen Crandell from “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead” – and I loved it. "I'm right on top of that Rose!"

Unlike Sue Ellen, I don’t farm out my duties to an overly eager co-worker, but I do rely on my co-workers for help an awful lot. They are, by far, the best resource I have. That said, sometimes I simply enjoy figuring things out for myself. The following are my top three resources for when I need to complete a task “on the fly.”

If you want to translate a paragraph from English to Spanish, I highly suggest you seek help elsewhere, but in many situations Google can be your very best friend. Need to book an off-site dinner reservation near an event venue? Google Maps. Want to put a face to the name of someone you’ve had only phone meetings with? Google Images. Honestly, when in doubt in nearly any situation… ASK THE GOOGLE! I’m not saying that you should believe everything you read on the Internet, or that every source you come across via Google is a reliable one, but it’s a starting point at the very least. Sometimes when my brain is completely blanking, I just need to enter a few words into the Google search bar, see some of the results, and my brain is right back on track.

Computer drives + search tool
In many situations the answers you’re looking for lie right within your computer drives. But since you likely didn’t set up those drives, and there can be folder upon folder containing countless files, it’s a good idea to become chummy with that search bar up in the right-hand corner. My search history tells me I tend to search for the same things over and over again. I could take this a step further and make a cheat sheet with locations of commonly searched documents too.

Speaking of which . . .

Cheat sheets
After repeatedly asking my colleagues the same questions time and again, I decided it was time to start make cheat sheets to reference. I have sheets for each client and they contain everything from links to commonly requested information, forwarding addresses for mail that comes here despite the intended not having “resided” here for quite some time, to names and a brief bio of industry partners for reference when they call sporadically. It’s easy to forget exactly who these partners are when you’re not in constant contact with them, so I love having a quick method of reminding myself of just who John Smith is when he calls. I’m constantly adding new information to these sheets and even removing something every so often when it seems it’s in my brain to stay.

I’m all about keeping it simple, so these basic tools work well for me, but in this app-happy world I’m sure there are numerous other resources that would work to help keep me on top of things. What works for you?

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