The purpose of Ask Your Board is to ask common business questions that all GAWDA members might be dealing with and to see how GAWDA’s Board of Directors are dealing with these issues within their own companies. To submit a question for GAWDA’s Board Members to consider, please email [email protected]
What do you do ahead of a GAWDA National Convention (either AC or SMC) to ensure that you and your team can most effectively make use of your time? If you are bringing other employees to this year’s SMC, what pieces of advice will you offer them? And what will you do after the show to follow-up on what you learned or who you networked with at the show?
For a meeting like the SMC that is designed to be more educational and provide tangible take aways, I try to ensure that we have someone assigned to each session. Their job is to report back to the group with a summary of the major theme and how it could benefit our organization. I also ask them to set up at least one meeting with someone in the industry that they need to get to know better. It could be as simple as arranging to sit together at breakfast before a session or as formal as dinner together.
Whenever we send a new person to either an SMC or AC, we make sure they have a “wingman” that has been to many of these meetings who can introduce them around and help them feel comfortable. I tell our people that all of my long-term relationships started with an introduction and a conversation. You need to proactively seek those encounters.
First Vice President
We are fortunate that, as a distributor, we get invited to many of the hospitalities and dinners hosted by the suppliers. These are important to O.E. Meyer Co. and we spend time internally making sure we can attend and participate in as many as possible. Our management team does our best to “divide and conquer” so we can make the events, dinners, and breakfast meetings that we feel bring the most value.
For the SMC, it is important that we evaluate the content and educational opportunities and align our attendees accordingly, based on where they can receive the most value. When we return back to the business after a GAWDA meeting, we discuss the topics covered and products seen at the contact booths and discuss the next steps on how those things can be implemented and purchased to benefit the business.
Second Vice President
First and foremost, the event app is always helpful to download ahead of time. It will help you ensure you know where to go for each event, and plan ahead as to which attendees you’d like to visit with during the Convention. Another helpful insider tip I always give newcomers is — plan to go to the bar at least one night after the events of the day wrap up (just don’t stay out too late!) That might seem like bad advice — but hear me out! Even if you don’t drink, it is a great way to meet with people, talk shop, and get to know your industry peers. There are no strangers at the GAWDA bar. And, if you can, plan a couple of hours after you’ve gotten back to the office to go over your notes and the contact info you’ve collected during the Convention to reach out and plan next steps to ensure you make the most of it.
First Past President
The SMC has a ton of content, and we try to bring enough people that we can cover all the different education tracks. We also divide and conquer at the Contact Booth Program because it’s difficult to see all the exhibitors if you don’t. At every Contact Booth Program, we make a point of trying to establish at least one new relationship with a supplier that we weren’t doing business with previously. We also try to schedule vendor meetings ahead of time during meal breaks or other downtime. You can’t always count on bumping into the partners you need to see at the networking events, so it’s a good idea to book time in advance. We also ask everyone that attends to type up and share their notes and impressions with the rest of the team within a day or two of returning so that we can prioritize any good ideas for follow-up before they get stale.
Second Past President
Abydee Butler Moore
In preparation for a national GAWDA meeting, we huddle with our colleagues attending and review the itinerary for the conference, content lineup, and attendee list. We plan our targets, either learning objectives or connection efforts. We will recap on a few best practices like sitting in the first rows during all sessions, and bringing plenty of business cards. If a colleague is new to industry trade association travel, we will review in-depth the association’s anti-trust guidelines. After the show, each delegate is responsible for articulating three takeaway items that he/she will implement to pay for the trip. We often do these takeaway shares in our EOS Traction meetings, and emphasize paying forward critical industry cascading messages. The ideas gathered at a conference are only as good as their implementation, so your travel mates serving as accountability buddies goes a long way.
I always look forward to GAWDA Conventions and in order to maximize the time during a busy schedule it certainly requires some thoughtful planning. Some of the basics include making sure I have a full understanding of my schedule and registered events along with allowing enough time on either side of the event to accommodate for travel and flights. If there are any gaps in my schedule, especially around meals, I try to fill in with meetings with new or existing vendors or distributor friends to catch up and get feedback on something they may be currently doing well that CK Supply struggles with. I usually also post on LinkedIn that I will be attending and invite anyone that may be interested to grab a drink or invite them to make an introduction if they see me. In regards to the speakers, it is essential to take notes in a manner which will create action on the takeaways. Often times, I see meeting notes scribbled on the hotel provided notepads that likely will end up in the bottom of the stack never to see the light of day. My suggestion is to immediately insert the notes into your calendar and block future time to review as necessary. The Contact Booth has A LOT of potential to unlock value for your organization and I usually will send out an email to our managers ahead of time if there is anything they are interested in or struggling with. I will usually spend the first part of the contact booth making sure I hit “the list” then the last half trying to find something new or create a new connection. Lastly, make sure there is time for fun and networking with peers, we all work hard, it is important to enjoy the time out of the office!
The small independent distributor must wear many hats. The bulk of advance planning for the SMC is making sure the management team is properly prepared for my absence.
- Who is going to take care of my normal activities?
- What have I failed to complete which could cause them problems?
- Who do we call if the computer crashes?
- Who do we call if we have a vehicle accident?
- Who do we call if the phone system or internet fails?
- How do we changeup the lunch schedule so someone is always there to answer questions, solve problems and sell product?
- Where will I be and what kind of schedule will I have while away so I am not interrupted with a call from a light bulb salesman in the middle of important business?
I plan to make a list of people I wish to meet with and try to get unresolved issues resolved. I will try to meet new people and listen to their issues and solutions to learn how to better manage our business. After the meeting, I will review my notes and decide what ideas should be implemented. This implementation must occur quickly for success before the ideas fade as the daily routine of the business will take over and no change will happen.
Like most companies, Noble finds it important to get the most return out of any company trip. We enjoy sending employees to the SMC because they can attend the talk tracks that are applicable to their positions. It is also imperative that our employees’ network and meet other suppliers and distributors in our industry. We feel it is essential to both our organization’s growth, as well as the employees growth. Our employees really appreciate being invited to these events for professional development. The biggest advice I would give a Noble employee when attending an SMC or Annual would be to encourage them to step outside of their comfort zone and sit and talk with new people. When the meetings conclude and we arrive home, we debrief and discuss takeaways. I often use this feedback to present to GAWDA’s Member Services Committee. Any feedback we can receive as an organization to do better, is great feedback in my opinion.
At Linde, we really value the opportunity to participate in GAWDA’s two annual events and have a unique perspective while attending, as we both supply the industry and distribute its products. To that end, we take time before each event to make sure we have the right mix of attendees from our various businesses and to organize the key themes and messages that we’d like to convey. Most importantly, we make sure to connect with our friends and partners beforehand to schedule time with each to maximize the value of attendance. That may involve planned meetings or simply letting folks know that we will be there and look forward to seeing them at a GAWDA reception. Once the event is over, follow-up is the key – both with internal and external stakeholders – and our teams make that a conscious priority for the weeks that follow.
My advice to anyone attending, including our own company representatives, is to use the short time you have to invest in your relationships and commit as much time as possible to catch up with old friends and meet new people.
I always register immediately and book the hotel rooms. The room blocks fill up fast and the Women of Gases and Welding event always sells out, so I make sure we do not miss out on either! About a week before the event, I download the attendee list and we have a team meeting to discuss what our goals are for the particular conference. We also plan out the logistics of the show as to who needs to be where and when. My advice to my team is to always attend every event! First and foremost, we are there to learn and network. After every show we have a debriefing meeting to discuss what we learned, how we can make the next show better, and to make a follow up task list for each member of our team.