Smart convention planning.
"Because I didn't use foresight in coordinating my networking schedule, functioning from day-to-day made me miss out on more business opportunities than I care to count," says Marie T. Smith, president of MTS Enterprises, a Queens, N.Y., apparel and accessories distributorship. Her experience exemplifies a networking problem faced by many businesspeople. Too often, professionals miss critical business and networking connections because they hear about them too late, have scheduling or budgetary conflicts, or simply because they never knew about them. The culprit? Most often poor planning. However, you don't have to miss out on opportunity-enhancing events because your schedule is tight.
Done far enough in advance, an agenda of events you'd like to attend can save you time, money and lost opportunities from less-focused planning. "Now I have a definite business plan centered around my projected year's schedule," says Smith who, tired of getting mad, just got smart.
Keeping abreast of industry trends is vital for survival in today's business arena, and nothing rivals the information you can obtain by attending conventions, meetings, trade fairs and seminars. "Obviously, with the volume of events taking place, schedules and conferences are bound to overlap," says Solomon J. Herbert, editor of Black Conventions, a monthly magazine dedicated to the meetings and conventions industry from an African-American perspective and based in North Hollywood, Calif. That' s why it's important to prioritize your needs and choose those events that best coincide with your objectives. Once you've pinpointed those critical events, you can cash in on the possible savings to be had by preregistering for conferences, booking airline and hotel reservations in advance and going to as many meetings and networking opportunities as possible during your stay in a particular city. "The goal is to plan for the greatest business potential with the least amount of expense," explains Herbert.
Perhaps the biggest advantage planning provides is flexibility. A working agenda, coupled with the knowledge that you'll be in a particular city during a certain month, can take the angst out of hectic business travel. It can also help you schedule meetings with hard-to-reach clients and contacts, reserve prime vendor space and snag a choice room in the convention's headquarter hotel.
"As a vendor, I've learned that some convention vending booths are sold out six months in advance, so I know not to wait until the month before the event to try to rent one," says A.J. Akoto, president of Prime Heritage Collection, a Memphis mail order and convention marketing retailer of Afrocentric accessories. Akoto spends a great deal of time vending and expanding his mailing list at conventions nationwide. He knows firsthand the benefits to be gotten from advance planning. Having an itinerary and doing prior research has allowed Akoto to enjoy early-bird travel discounts, accurately project the amount of inventory to bring and bid for strategic vending space.
Some of the larger, more established organizations project their conference cities and dates years in advance, making it easier for members and other interested attendees to start their agendas well in advance of their actual departure date. However, for the smaller, lesser-known venues, some ferreting out of phone numbers, headquarter locations and meeting dates will be required. Publications like the Guide to Black Organizations published biennially by Philip Morris Cos. Inc. and the annual BLACK ENTERPRISE/Kraft General Foods calendar of events can help. By listing the names, addresses and phone numbers of organizations and their scheduled national meetings, these catalogs place valuable organization and convention information at your fingertips. Seasoned conventioneers like Akoto revere these sources for convention networking and planning. "Sometimes, because I was able to do advance planning, I've even been able to schedule participating in some of the workshops and lectures offered at the conference," he says.
So, buckle down and write that resolutions list and put planning at the top, if it isn't there already. Who knows? You might find that a little advance planning makes this your most profitable New Year ever.
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|Author:||Baskerville, Dawn M.|
|Date:||Jan 1, 1993|
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