Update July 2022 – VeriFacts continues to attend industry-leading events to strategically network and expand our influence throughout the industry. Each year, members of the VeriFacts executive team attend the iA Institute’s Women in Consumer Finance event and many more. Events like WCF, ACA International’s Annual Conference, and the RMAI Annual Conference give VeriFacts the leg up in the industry that we need to continually provide our clients with unmatched services.
February 2021 – Participation in conferences and industry events provides us with valuable education and an opportunity to connect with other professionals dedicated to moving our industry forward. At VeriFacts, we leverage conference attendance to stay current with industry trends, gain expertise, and cultivate personal relationships.
Conference attendance can be an invaluable contribution to the success of any organization. We encourage our team to participate not as just an attendee, but as a true representative of the company and an advocate for their career development. The VeriFacts team approaches each conference experience, whether in-person or virtually, with clear goals and objectives to gain the most from each learning opportunity, professional connection, and industry affiliation. In this article, we’re sharing the 8 ways that we maximize the value of our conference attendance.
1. Strategic Conference Preparation
Begin planning for a specific conference by first determining how attendance will align with the goals and objectives of your business. These reasons guide our team toward making a conference preparation plan. Taking ample time, in advance, to plan your schedule is critical. You want to maximize the benefits each conference experience brings to you professionally and personally, and you want your company to get the return on the investment they’ve made in providing you the opportunity to attend.
When you’re plotting your schedule, take a look at the conference as a whole. Look at all the sessions and events you’re interested in, those that would provide your company the most value or give insight that supports your role within the company. VeriFacts conference attendees aim to attend as many sessions as possible to cover a full range of topics and are committed to prioritizing skill-building sessions to enhance our team’s development.
2. Schedule Your Time Wisely
Conference schedules are often planned far in advance and there may be times that a session isn’t quite what you thought it was going to be. We empower our team to use their time wisely and get the most out of their conference experience. If you need to get up or log out to go attend a more appropriate session, this is not only acceptable but also encouraged by our VeriFacts leadership team. The value of the time you spend in sessions is the take-away, you always want to capture at least one great idea or technique from any given session.
Our team shares their conference schedules in advance and we frequently divide and conquer to collectively attend as many sessions and meetings as possible. Whether focused on learning a new skill or hearing from industry experts, scheduling our days and nights in advance has been vital to our conference success. To get the most from a conference event, you want to optimize your time to meet with a potential client, get continuing education credit from a course, or have a social conversation with a group of industry colleagues about a receivables management topic that interests you.
3. Build Relationships at the Conference
Researching the companies and people you will meet is just as important as identifying the knowledge you want to gain from the educational sessions. Relationships often develop over time and have the potential to be a key component in that big contract you are anxious to close. Reaching out to those people in advance to schedule a dinner or coffee during the conference will not only reinforce your relationship, but you’ll also have some fun!
Save a few blocks of time for new people you meet, too. The trade associates, clients, partners, and industry friends who dedicate their time to attending these events are extremely kind and helpful. A conference is an excellent platform to gain access to a subject matter expert or simply make a new connection. Smile, be approachable, and confident enough to introduce yourself and make a new friend. Be your authentic self and create connections that you’ll have for many years and many conferences to come.
VeriFacts CEO Stephanie Clark is an advocate for the account receivable management industry and attends and participates in conferences, seminars, and virtual events. “We all remember being new and going to our very first conference. I met so many nice people who helped to show me the ropes, invited me to dinners, and introduced me to new people. Without the kindness of others, my first conference would not have been as successful of an experience. Now, I return those simple kindnesses by doing the same for other first-time attendees. It’s important to foster a welcoming attitude so that our industry continues to grow and thrive.”
4. Create Online Networking Opportunities
If you do not have access to the conference attendee list in advance, find out if the event has a #hashtag and see who else is attending. This can help you identify key influencers or network with professionals who are interested in a particular topic. On a platform like LinkedIn, you can get to know the faces of other attendees and get the conversation started, before the event even begins. You may also learn about the sessions they will attend or an activity they will participate in that you could add to your schedule.
Connecting through social media before, during, and after the conference is a great way to develop a relationship with a potential customer or industry partner. A huge part of networking at any conference is participation in social events and activities. We think these are great opportunities to connect with people in a more relaxed setting and when they aren’t rushing off to the next great session. (Hint: These events are often more important than the sessions!)
5. Get Involved in Associations, Boards, and Committees
Help take care of the trade associations who educate us, protect us, and spread the word about our services. Investing in sponsorships is a great way to get your brand recognized and show your support. Join an association, a board, or committee and get involved to meet new people, learn from your peers, and share your special skills. Conferences can play a huge role in your mix of hard work, trust, and partnerships. Participating and engaging in industry events will only increase your chances of being in the right place at the right time.
You can also participate in the conference in a more active way. If you are a subject matter expert, you may consider being a presenter, a panelist, a session facilitator, or a committee volunteer. While you’re there, you’ll be among hundreds or thousands of other participants, but if you can take on a visible role, you will set yourself and your company apart from the crowd.
6. Learn to Be a Good Listener
Listening skills are paramount in a conference environment. There is an abundance of information and conversation going on with you and around you. Being a good listener is an essential part of gaining value from your attendance. New attendees should use the conference as an opportunity to explore how others successfully navigate their time and the impact they have on not only their own experience but on those around them.
Attendees engage in hundreds of conversations per day at a conference and you should never be afraid to say that you don’t know the answer to something; let honesty and integrity guide every interaction. Finding that answer could be as simple as just seizing the opportunity to follow up with a potential client after the event. The traditional steak dinners aren’t our style either, but we do share memorable experiences and create friendships through organic interactions. We like to have fun, be open to new things, even get our adrenaline pumping a bit!
“That very first conference was in New Orleans and it happened to be my very first day working for VeriFacts as a salesperson,” continues Stephanie, “I had never flown on a plane before, never hailed a cab, I had no idea how to ‘speak VeriFacts’ and I was completely terrified. I still remember the people I met that very first day! They are friendships that I still cherish 20 years later. I recently told one of these people how much they influenced me and how thankful I was, and still am, for their education, support, and inclusion. They had no idea of the depth of their influence on me. Because of that experience, I make it part of my conference experience to pay it forward by taking a newbie under my wing, showing folks around the floor, and introducing them to others. I strive to lead by example and hopefully create connections that lead to a valuable conference for not only our company but each conference attendee.”
7. Don’t Overlook the Details
A conference is a whirlwind of activity, but with goals, a plan, a schedule, and a strategy, you can succeed at making the experience extremely valuable for both yourself and your company. Take business cards, keep your phone and laptop charged, and have the LinkedIn App and any other apps installed to easily collect contact data. The VeriFacts team is committed to always presenting ourselves and our company as authentically and organically as possible. We follow the suggested attire for each event and most importantly, if we’re walking the conference floor, we always have a comfortable pair of good lookin’ shoes!
8. Follow Up is Essential
Do what you say you’re going to do. If you say you’re going to follow up and provide information, do it. If you met some key influencers or identified new client prospects, make sure you follow up after the conference in a timely manner. Networking is only as good as your ability to keep the conversation going. We find follow-up to be an essential piece of conference attendance and make this process part of our initial plan.
You gained a lot of new information, inspiration, and contacts at the conference, and one of the best things you can do with those resources is to share them with your co-workers, colleagues, and friends. Send out videos of the sessions you thought were particularly valuable, give a talk about something you learned at your next staff meeting, and tell your boss about some of the interesting contacts you met. You’ll spread your new skills and knowledge—and hopefully your colleagues will reciprocate the next time they go to a great event.
More Important Than Ever: Virtual Event Interaction
Virtual and hybrid events have become an essential part of current-day conferences as we have adapted to new digital platforms, embraced new ways to cultivate relationships, and responded to new challenges in entirely new ways. Understanding that the conference design and the methods of connecting are now offering many options for virtual attendance. While VeriFacts will always prefer an opportunity to engage with their clients face-to-face, we have stayed committed to supporting hybrid conference participation in new creative ways. If you’re attending virtually, take the time to follow the same strategies listed above within the boundaries of the virtual setting. What works in person can also work virtually if you are willing to take the time and adapt accordingly.
The Value of Conference Attendance
An industry conference, at any stage of your career development, is a valuable experience that successful professionals and companies should continue to prioritize as part of their business strategy. How to get the most of your conference attendance begins with your commitment to planning, participating, and learning lessons to level up your next conference experience.
The VeriFacts team will be attending the 2021 Receivables Management Association International (RMAI) Annual Conference in Las Vegas, April 12-15, 2021. We are looking forward to seeing our colleagues and friends, regardless of whether you attend in person or virtually. As more and more in-person conferences take place, we hope that when you bump into the VeriFacts team at your next conference, you introduce yourself and tell us which of these tips has been the most beneficial for your conference attendance!
About VeriFacts, LLC
Headquartered in Sterling, IL, VeriFacts, LLC is a leading service provider to the receivables management industry. We are committed to offering guaranteed customer location and employment verification services to creditors across the nation. The VeriFacts brand has become synonymous with high-quality service and a positive customer experience for over 30 years.