Avoiding Big Idea Overload – How to Get the Most Value Out of Conference Attendance

We’ve all been there. Conference season arrives, and you want to work in attending the right mix to support your company’s strategic goals. With each conference comes all the invites to great sessions and panels, walking the exhibit floor, catching up with attendees you know, plus the after-hours networking opportunities. Who can fit it all in? With all this to consider, it can get overwhelming to plan for a successful conference schedule when you look at a packed agenda.

The Exchange Solutions team goes through this exact scenario more times than not. That’s why we thought about what works best for us when planning for an upcoming conference, including this year’s IRCE 2019. If you haven’t quite got the plan set for yourself, here are some things to consider that may help you get the most out of your time at IRCE, or any other conference that comes up in your future.

Know Your Business Goals. Every retail organization goes to a conference with a goal in mind, and it usually includes a plan to find out what the competition is doing! However, it’s really important to remember to focus on what motivates your own company. What problems do you need to solve operationally? What is your current marketing plan lacking that a vendor or partner can help build up? Are you mainly thinking about future growth or an immediate need? Take the time to look past the keynotes and focus on gathering info to help solve that next important initiative you and your team need to work on.

For us at Exchange Solutions, our plan is to learn about what the future holds. It’s important for us to remain at the forefront of retail trends so we can help our clients maximize their customer engagement goals. If you’re at IRCE and are also looking to learn about future trends in retail, review the agenda. We recommend attending “Getting Ready for What’s Next in Retail: The View from the C-Suite” as well as “Exceeding Shopper Expectations Now and in the Future”.

Extra tip: Our team also likes going to conferences with a plan on what we’ll be bringing home. Take note of the vendors or solutions a speaker mentions and go visit them on the expo floor if they’re there. Make sure to grab all the collateral you can and circulate available session presentations after the conference ends, so your team at home can learn too.

Know the Agenda. The truth is you’re just not going to be able to get to everything you hope to. But with agendas published in advance, it gets easy to assess what’s on offer several weeks before the conference opens. Most attendees don’t necessarily take a look at the details of a conference agenda until they arrive, which sometimes results in a missed opportunity. Our team is thrilled we took the time to check out the IRCE 2019 agenda in advance. There are hidden gems throughout the conference. We’re really looking forward to “The Right Message in the Right Place at the Right Time” by Jerry Jao and Adriana Kwicinski on Thursday, June 27th.

In case you don’t get the chance to review the agenda before you get there, here are a few ways to create a quick plan:

Search the Agenda by Theme: Since you know what is important to your business, prioritize attending sessions that speak to innovative ideas that fit at least one major theme you work to improve every day.

Search the Agenda by Speaker: Speakers who are published or have an established platform usually save something new (or big, or both!) for a conference. Headliners usually do draw the crowds in, but it’s worth assessing whether there are other speakers that could be more relevant for you to connect with. We’re really excited for Lauren Freedman, Senior Consumer Insights Analyst, to give us a view into what consumers say matters most to them so we can help our clients create shopper experiences that exceed shopper expectations.

Know Yourself. Our team tries to stay real with ourselves about how many sessions we can sit through in a day. We also try to plan how many breaks we need in order to reflect on what we just heard and summarize our big takeaways. If you know you need time to yourself after lunch, or you need to check in back at the office before the end of the day, don’t force yourself to attend a session if you’ll be distracted.

Extra tip: To help maximize our day, our teammates try to attend a session with someone they’re planning to catch up with. By comparing notes over a coffee after a session, we’re able to get important facetime in with that contact AND have someone to bounce ideas off of.

The Exchange Solutions team can’t wait to dive into IRCE 2019. Are there any big ideas from IRCE 2019 you think we should pay close attention to? Our teammate Xavier Torres will be there and is available to have that chat. If you miss connecting with him but still want to hear from us, follow Exchange Solutions on LinkedIn or connect with Xavier directly. We’d love to hear from you!