Last week we presented a research that stated to have found that high-performing professionals tend to transit through four distinct stages of development. Even though there are exceptions, an employee usually showcases behavior that is predominately associated with one of the following stages.

  1. Apprentice
  2. Individual contributor
  3. Mentor/coach
  4. Sponsor/strategist

According to the study, professionals in stages 3 and 4 are often eager to provide coaching and mentorship to junior professionals in stages 1, who are eager to learn and develop new skills.

How might this information be connected to our MICE industry, you might wonder. Well first of all, during conferences, chances are that professionals from all these four stages of career development will participate. So a good question that arises is why are people attending conferences and what does each of us expect from the event. And could the answer be really connected to the 4 stages of career contribution?

Is it for the networking or the knowledge? Or both? Are we getting the pulse of the industry, through the latest developments showcased? Are we attending to share our knowledge? Do we need a mentor?

Subject touched spot-on in a recent Harvard Business Review article, where marketing strategist Dorie Clark identifies 5 strategies that, as an attendee, you can use to identify which conferences are worth your time, depending on your career level.

Mrs. Clark states: “In a world where we’re bombarded with emails, it’s disproportionately effective to connect with people face to face. Conferences, if you choose them wisely, can be one of the best ways to accelerate this process, since you can meet large numbers of people in just a few days.”

1. For those in an earlier stage of your career, it’s useful to be a “yes man” and attend as many conferences, workshops, and networking events as possible.

2. For the seniors, it’s highly important to find a balance between connections with people like yourself (“bonding”) and connections with people who are different (“bridging”). If you find yourself networking only with people from your industry or company, it’s a great idea to reach out to conferences that bring together diverse groups, such as TED or your local TEDx gathering.

3. It is essential to register far in advance, in order to secure affordable flights and also ensure you can find acceptable lodging, which books up fast for large conferences.

4. Similarly, if you need to request or take time off work you should do it far in advance, to plan accordingly around the period when you will not be in the office.

5. If you know in advance who will be attending, as many conferences publish a guide to both speakers and attendees, do reach out and invite people you know, even if they’re solely online connections, to meet up for coffee or a group dinner.

Mrs. Clark concludes: “New conferences are announced almost every day, but you can realistically only attend a select few per year. With the strategies above, you can make sound choices about how to identify and prioritize where you want to spend your time — and who you want to meet, and become, in the process.”

So, why are you attending conferences? Does your career level really influence the decision? Are you already using some of the strategies mentioned above? We would love to hear your opinions on the matter.