In our busy digital world, we often forget the importance of being in a live setting and networking with others from the financial services community. In fact, the benefit you get from attending industry conferences might be just what you need to discover new ways to motivate your business and promote growth in your financial institution.
As a research analyst, I spend hours in front of a computer screen searching for data, or on conference calls and webinars with people I have never met. But a large part of what I learn comes from attending industry conferences. The experience is much more valuable when I am face-to-face with people who are on the front-line of the financial industry … servicing customers. After all, that’s where the “rubber meets the road” and the value of my research is tested. Whether you’re a vendor, a presenter or an FI attendee, everyone learns from the connections made at conferences.
The Value of Networking
Industry conferences provide a great opportunity to network. Working in an office can often be isolating, and without exposure to a variety of points of view. You can easily miss new ideas and trends that can impact the future of your institution.
When attending a conference, don’t spend all of your time with coworkers you see every day. Venture out and introduce yourself to conference attendees from other parts of the country – or even the world. They can become valuable resources for referrals and best-practices. Avoiding these contacts for fear of others discovering your competitive advantage can limit your own success. Others, who have faced issues you might currently be experiencing, can help by offering ideas and methods that have worked for them in the past.
Often people cite the conversations they have with other attendees during lunch or standing in the hallway as the most valuable part of attending an event. While these are not on the agenda or mentioned in the learning objectives of breakout sessions, much value is gained by two or more people discussing topics on a deeper, personal level. These conversations can be truly inspiring and spark an ongoing relationship for years to follow. Networking not only means creating new connections. It also means maintaining and strengthening existing ones, so reach out to those you know or have met in the past. Relationships are the byproduct of good networking.
“An Investment in Knowledge Pays the Best Interest” – Benjamin Franklin
No matter how experienced you are, there is always something to learn. The financial services industry is changing and technology moves at warp speed. Staying current (or maybe even ahead of change) is more important than ever before and conferences provide sessions where you can learn about facts and statistics that will help you better understand trends in technology and the market.
The educational aspect of a conference is the true return on investment (ROI). Instructors can offer new ways to promote productivity, whether it be through new processes or with tools that offer greater efficiencies. Sessions presented by industry experts, analysts and futurists shed light on topics and issues of concern that FIs might have regarding using technology, dealing with regulation, and meeting customer expectations, to name a few.
Discover Innovative Products
Discovering new innovative products and services for your institution is necessary to stay competitive in today’s fast-paced market. By taking time to browse the exhibit hall at conferences, you’ll meet some of the industry’s most reputable suppliers. Many people avoid the exhibit hall because they don’t want to be “sold” something or stuck listening to a sales pitch. This isn’t always the case, as many vendors now staff their area with subject matter experts (SMEs) who best know the product and how it can be applied to meet the FI’s objectives. They are also a great resource, with a finger on the pulse of the current banking and competitive market.
Know Before You Go
Be prepared! Study the agenda and consider sessions that will address a problem you might have, teach you something new, or expose you to a topic you’ve often wondered about. Check out the attendee list and create a list of people you’d like to meet. If you have access to their contact information, reach out via email or the conference app prior to the conference to introduce yourself and suggest a time to meet.
Don’t Forget to Have Fun!
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. (No pun intended!) Connecting with others in business should be rewarding and fun. Industry conferences can add a layer of enjoyment to managing your career growth by mixing a social aspect with your learning and industry branding efforts.
Most conferences have fun activities added to the agenda such as social receptions and outings or tours of the local area where the event is hosted. Taking an extra day at the beginning or end of the trip to explore or visit friends in the region is also a great way to maximize the investment in travel. Never underestimate the power of a little fun mixed with some interesting people!
Being active in your industry can bring with it many benefits. There is power in being connected to other people who are active in your line of work, but it can also be easy to talk yourself out of attending that annual conference year after year. Remember: it’s not enough to just attend a conference. To capitalize on the ROI, you need to be engaged and participate. We all learn from interaction.