What are you thinking about?

Edward P. Salek, CAE, Executive Director | TLT Headquarters Report November 2017

A little advance thought is all it takes to get the maximum return from STLE’s 2018 Annual Meeting.

In addition to providing world-class and lubricant-specific technical information, STLE's annual meeting is where you make the kinds of friends and business connections that can last a lifetime.

ATTENDING A TECHNICAL CONFERENCE represents a significant investment of time and money by attendees and their employers. Whether you are getting ready for an event this month or thinking ahead to STLE’s 2018 Annual Meeting next May, an authority in the association-management field wants to share a simple formula on how to get the most value (and return) from the experience.

Jon Hockman, a principal with Washington, D.C.-based, consultants McKinley Advisors (STLE is a client), put it this way in a blog post earlier this year. “Prepping to create ROI (return on investment) from your conference investment starts long before you even arrive at the meeting,” Hockman says. “Start by writing down what you would like to bring back with you from the meeting. You can even do this while on the plane.” 

He continues by emphasizing that you should pay attention to the two different types of value offered by events like STLE’s meeting:

1. Knowledge sharing through notes you take, sessions you attend and presentations you bring back with you
2. Networking through the connections you make/rekindle for yourself and pass on to colleagues.

Both types of the value cited by Hockman are prominent parts of STLE’s 2018 Annual Meeting & Exhibition, May 20-24 in Minneapolis, Minn. STLE offers more than 500 technical presentations on every aspect of tribology and lubricants from the world’s leading authorities. In addition, there are 12 industry-specific education courses, all taught by recognized experts in their field. This level of instructor credibility is why 95% of the 500 people who attended an education course at STLE’s 2017 meeting said they would recommend the course to a colleague. So STLE gets a high mark in the knowledge-sharing category.

Networking opportunities are another prominent aspect of the STLE conference. A great place to connect with potential suppliers is at the trade show. More than 150 companies and organizations are involved in the three-day exhibition. If you are a student or a young professional, the technical sessions, education courses and special events are a place to engage with professional mentors or explore joint projects with possible research collaborators. The Networking Reception and Presidents Luncheon are major networking events attended by nearly 1,000 lubricant professionals from around the world. 

While this all sounds like a complex experience, Dr. Michel Fillon (University of Poitiers-France), 2018 STLE conference chair, adds one more thought to put it all in perspective: “While STLE’s Annual Meeting is very large in terms of program and attendance, it is still very personal. STLE is where you make the kinds of friends and business connections that can last a lifetime.”

Hockman notes that this combination of knowledge sharing and business networking pays dividends even after you return from a conference. “Organize your thinking, process your experience and distill it into something that’s actionable for your company,” he says.

However, anyone who’s attended a conference knows this can be a bit daunting once you get into the daily grind of the work environment. To help overcome this barrier, Hockman suggests three simple questions to sustain the process:

What am I still thinking about?
What sessions, ideas or connections would be fun to discuss with a colleague?
Where did I have my Aha! moments?

Good advice, especially because there will be plenty of Aha! moments next May when some 1,600 of your peers gather at the Minneapolis Convention Center for STLE’s 73rd Annual Meeting & Exhibition. Watch for a complete meeting preview in the January TLT, as well as online at www.stle.org.

You can reach Certified Association Executive Ed Salek at esalek@stle.org.