Conference Confidential – Networking, Information Sessions, and Conversations

Before webinars, podcasts and YouTube, in order to stay up to date in your profession you had to meet with actual people in an actual room at a conference or networking event. Crazy, right? You’re probably reaching for your hand sanitizer just thinking about all that human contact to avoid.

But even in 2018, trade shows and conferences are an important channel for many B2B vendors. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Marketing Profs, 75% of their respondents said they saw a positive future for trade show marketing.

I’ve just returned from the annual SLA Conference held in Baltimore this year. The conference was focused on information and knowledge management. As you can see from the picture of my name badge I’ve been pretty actively involved in SLA for some time now.

Why do I keep going year after year? In a word, (if you let acronyms slide by as a word), it’s because of FOMO (fear of missing out). I want to know what the current technologies are and learn strategies from my colleagues for becoming even more effective and insightful for my clients.

The key benefits of attending the conference this year were:

  • Conversations with exhibitors in the Info-Expo who were showing off their new products and services. I like hearing about new trends, what’s hot, what’s selling, and what customers are asking for. The vendors are usually very good about sharing.
  • Information sessions and panel discussions about business tactics and new strategies. Being a sole proprietor means you have to keep a lot of plates spinning – marketing, promotion, process improvements, new customer acquisition, and current customer maintenance. Its very beneficial to hear about how my colleagues have solved similar problems.
  • Networking events were particularly fun this year. I rotated from swinging a ping-pong paddle, to a Fellows gathering, and mentoring a new member. I’ve learned just as much about the industry from a casual conversations as in formal sessions.

Session Insight

One session I found interesting discussed a formula for creating more effective research queries for the health care industry. The heath care industry uses evidence-based research to guide diagnosis and treatment protocols. PICO is a template for preparing better queries of the evidence-based research databases. PICO stands for:

  • Population:     What is the population that the query relates to?
  • Intervention:  What intervention is being investigated or questioned?
  • Comparison:   What therapies are being compared?
  • Outcome:         What outcome is being investigated?

I think this the formula will be very useful for bringing rigor to the reference interview process. For example, an information query might be: “Is bariatric surgery recommended for my type 2 diabetes?” Restating this query using the PICO formula, we have:

  • P    The population is obese patients with Type 2 diabetes
  • I     The intervention is whether to use bariatric surgery
  • C    The comparison is to see if surgery is more effective than the patient’s current treatment
  • O    The outcome to investigate is whether the treatment positively effects the patient’s diabetes symtoms

The formula brings clarity to the information research process, which should save time and money. A follow on benefits of PICO is that the formula can be applied to querying many types of information databases.

The conference provides a myriad of professional insights and updates making it a worthwhile investment every time.




Stay on the Main Road

The local Trappist Abbey near McMinnville, Oregon is a peaceful retreat for contemplation, surrounded by a beautiful forest and some great hiking trails. Even though the Abbey is nearby, I had not gone there before, so my husband and I set off to explore the woods at mid-day.

Wouldn’t you know it, we had not gone a mile into the woods before we got lost. We dug out the map and turned it upside down and sideways trying to find our way. Yes, we had a map and still got lost! We were on a tiny side trail. We could not find the main road!

All the trails seemed to lead up the mountain, where a shrine is situated overlooking a bucolic valley, so we wandered on.

We slogged upward, through the muck that was a stream running down the middle of the path.

We trekked through the thicket where poison oak was lurking.

Finally, after traipsing up what was essentially a Billy goat trail, we found a spot that matched the map. We were only a third of the distance to our destination, and we had wasted time and energy. It was January, so the sunlight would not last long.

Do you remember in the movie The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy is advised to “follow the yellow brick road?” Or do you remember in The Hobbit when Frodo Baggins wanders off the main trail and is captured by giant spiders? In folklore, we are frequently admonished by the sages to “stay on the main path.” Why stay on the main road, though? Isn’t all the adventure in blazing your own path and being an iconoclast?

Of course, there is a business metaphor here. In the business world we frequently hear about the merits of blazing your own path—and I believe that advice is sound, because mistakes and mishaps help build business savvy.  To do something great and truly break through may require you to chart your own course.

But it’s useful to reflect on when you want to blaze you own trail and when you want to follow a proven path. Here’s my advice: When you want to differentiate your services and products from the competition, blaze. But in areas—such which office tools you use—that are not as critical, visible or of high-value to your customers, follow the main road.

After this hiking adventure, I can confirm that by staying on the main road, you can:

  • Get to your destination sooner. Oh, sure, there are shortcuts to quick riches offered daily, but, at least in my experience, you really do have to put in the hard work and long hours in order to gain real insight.
  • Ask for and receive assistance. This is because there are others who are on the main road. It’s reassuring to see fellow hikers coming down the hill as you come up. They’ll tell you “Just a little farther,” or “It’s worth the effort,” and you’ll re-double your efforts.
  • Avoid unnecessary dangers, like poison oak and washouts. When you get off the main path, there are unknown dangers that can slow you down. We came across someone out letting their dogs romp off the leash, eager to jump up on us.
  • Have the safety of guardrails, traffic signs and exit ramps. When you leave the main trail, you may be confronted by a fork where there are two equally bad options. On the main trail, you have the peace of mind of knowing where you are going. You can focus on the beautiful scenery, instead of worrying about if this fading trail is going to end at a cliff.
  • Continually orient yourself to the map. When you leave the trail, you are making it up as you go. On the main road you know where you are and you have less stress.

It’s true that simply doing what everyone else does is not always the best course. A fresh perspective, a new approach, or an alternative viewpoint is often valuable. On this adventure we had an enhanced feeling of accomplishment when we found the shrine at the top and drank in the view, knowing that we’d done things a little differently. We certainly gave ourselves a bigger challenge. But I’m not sure you could argue that we added value, and that’s the question that sparked this post.