Last week Lee Weiner and I attended the NAVUG Forum in Seattle, WA. It is primarily a gathering of business people who use MS Dynamics NAV software but MS reps, VAR’s and ISV’s also attend. There are several clear benefits of attending the conference such as meeting face to face with some of our vendors, taking classes about how certain processes work in the ERP system we all use, and having the chance to pose questions to MS experts on the product. Those things all make it worth going, but I thought I would talk about some of the less obvious benefits to consider if you are thinking about attending a conference.
First, I enjoy attending these events because they give me a chance to work on the business instead of in the business. I spent days thinking about how we could do things better and more efficiently, while using the tools already available to us. Sure, I kept up with e-mail but I wasn’t immersed in the daily execution of the business. The conference also gave me a chance to have discussions with others and examine our processes from a higher point of view. Some problems are about specific functionality, but often times we need to explain a process in terms that people from other industries can understand to find possible solutions. Talking through things in that setting can open our eyes to new ways of doing things. Those conversations can lead to some great network opportunities, and some of the best connections I made were made during meals with people I had never met before as we talked about our businesses and common challenges.
The breakout sessions themselves can also have some real value outside gaining nuts and bolts education. I attended a session that summarized a wide array of online resources available to NAV users, most of them free. I brought home a handout that lists over 20 URL addresses of blogs, users groups, and forums where we can seek help and published it over Yammer for all our employees to share internally. I attended a session about the book How Full is Your Bucket that came with a copy of the book and an access code to take the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment. I’m reading about how to have more positive and fewer negative interactions and I shared the results of the assessment with our HR manager and my boss so they can better understand my strengths. I also attended sessions about topics out of my immediate scope like social media in business and a deep dive into costing.
I had a great experience again this year at Forum and I think opportunities like this help me grow as a professional and as an employee. If you or your employees are considering attending a conference, think about some of the less obvious benefits you may get out of it.