Yesterday we returned from a week long trip to Orlando, FL, to attend the Service Management World Conference and Expo as an exhibitor.

Coming from Australia you may think we are mad for traveling halfway across the world for a 3-day conference and to be honest, at times I had that thought as well. Especially when jetlag kicked in, which can be brutal at times.

For years I’ve avoided going to conferences because I was under the impression that in this modern day business environment you don’t need to attend conferences anymore. However, this week has proven me wrong, very very wrong.

So what’s the big deal about going to a conference? In one word: PEOPLE.

Today’s technology is amazing – we can have instant video meetings with anybody around the world and do deals with people we never meet in person because everything is done via email and web portals.

We have virtual teams in multiple locations and clients in 100+ countries. Most people will never meet us in person as there is no direct need for this effort to be able to sign up for our toolkit subscriptions or to purchase an instant download product.

There is however something profoundly magical about interpersonal connections. Meeting with a person face to face where you can read their body language… is priceless.

Sitting across the table from somebody and really listening to the other person, directly, without being distracted by annoying headsets or notifications on your screen. Finding yourself fully engaged in the conversation with that other person and learning about their business career and what makes them excited. You don’t get that easily in a video conference or phone conversation.

In a conference situation you also have the opportunity to spend a bit more time outside of the official meetings to get to know the person behind the businesscard. This is perhaps my most favourite reason why there is value in attending these industry conferences. You meet people who are interested in the same topic, work in the same industry and deal with the same challenges and issues.

When you have discussions with people who work in the same industry, you can’t help but learn new things. New insights into a familiar situation. New approaches to an issue you’ve been struggling with for a while. Or perhaps something super simple that you completely overlooked until somebody new points it out to you. 

The job title doesn’t define the person – there is so much more to a person than their status or rank in a business. At a conference you’re amongst peers, you’re there to learn from the keynotes, breakout sessions and from the conversations at the breakfast table. I find that often the biggest learning, the gold nugget, shows up in the least obvious way.

That’s most likely the reason why your head is spinning at the end of a 3-day conference and you can’t wait to get back to your normal job. Make sure though you build in some processing time to absorb everything that you’ve learned and to find a way to implement this in your job going forward. Don’t try to do too many things, just 1 or 2 things done well is a much more valuable outcome.

So what did I learn? Mostly that there is absolutely a business case for attending conferences as a learning tool. I learned how much I enjoyed talking with my peers in the industry, to learn from our clients on how they use our products and services and the difference it made to their business.

But I also learned that in this current environment of AI, machine learning and IoT developments, it is the people who are the glue of the industry. And I don’t think that this will change any time soon.

So there it is – can’t wait to see you all in Las Vegas in April, where we’ll be exhibiting at the Support World Live Expo (www.hdiconference.com/) – see you there!

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