Making the most of the exhibition & conference season
As the conference and exhibition season gets into full swing, security professionals must justify attending these events, in particular, the cost and time involved. With the right preparation, attendance can be a crucial part of your role and your professional development.
Lorraine Cussen, Strategic Account Director at VSG agrees. “Events are an excellent way of maintaining professional knowledge, making contacts and identifying good practice. I’m always keen to find innovative ways of improving our services.”
Plan, plan, plan
Planning what you want to achieve at an event is key. An unfocused visit can leave you overwhelmed, none the wiser and exhausted. So, identify the key challenges and priorities facing you at the moment. There could be someone in a similar role in another organisation who has the answer. Perhaps there is an expert speaking on a particular topic who will give valuable insight. There may be a product or service available that could solve the problem.
With this in mind, have a specific objective in mind for your attendance. Prioritise the exhibitors and presentations you plan to see. But do leave some time for seeing “what’s out there”. You could focus on an area completely outside your current responsibility or expertise. Ideas and solutions in an unrelated may open your mind to new possibilities or solutions.
Exhibitions give you a chance of quickly seeing a range of products in one place. Jonathan Burke of Abloy says, “an exhibition is an invaluable way for staff from various departments to see key elements of the market in one place, helping them to appreciate what is happening outside the office”.
This means you can see whether your existing facilities are still fit for purpose, what the alternatives are and the implications for any changes you want to make.
Talk to exhibitors
Don’t avoid talking to exhibitors. Often their experts will be available and they love to talk about their products and services. If you go with a specific question in mind, it’s much easier to have a useful conversation. It may be that you want to see what your competitors are up to. Keep an open mind, there may be opportunities for collaboration or new ideas for what you offer.
The body of information that you receive on the day, from demonstrations, presentations and your own discussions will help you keep up to date on the industry as a whole. Many roles, whether running your own small business or a small unit within a large organisation, can limit your exposure to new ideas and trends.
Networking at security exhibitions
You should also have the chance of seeing what publications there are available in your field, plus a chance to meet representatives from professional bodies. This is a great opportunity to see what organisations to join, what they offer and to meet the key people face to face.
Of course conferences and exhibitions are a great place to network, to meet up with existing contacts and make new ones. To maximise your use of time, you can combine a visit to an exhibition with a client or supplier meeting, whether at the location or nearby. This is your opportunity to meet people who you may have only emailed previously, or communicated with via social media.
And finally of course, have some fun. Exhibitions and conference provide a wonderful opportunity to meet up with like-minded people, make new connections, see old friends and perhaps get to know a new city or country. If you combine the hard work with regular breaks and refreshment, you should come away with a range of new ideas, information and contacts.