What Me Worry?

17 09 2010

The true cost of growing, learning, sharing knowledge, and job improvement is not something that can be assessed in a practical sense. Employers who restrict (or forbid) travel for educational events provide a huge disservice to their clients, employees, vendors, frequently to themselves, and certainly to their companies.

There is no instance in the business world where staying behind the curve is a benefit. The simple fact that the world is changing so rapidly should be a giant red flag to management for the necessity to stay as far ahead of the learning curve as possible.

The cost of travel is relatively high, but the cost of not traveling is much higher. Basing these decisions on ROI is a fallacy. There are probably as many conferences with little value as there are conferences with tremendous value – how do you choose what is important to attend? That should be the biggest decision an employer can assess on this subject. There is a great article about the importance of continuing education in an economic downturn (link attached).

We spend inordinate amounts of time with systems – tracking, logging, and evaluating our time. Justifying project expenditures. Proving we are performing to the very best of our abilities. Success should be the ultimate proof of our use of time and resources. What difference does it make if your employees perform to the best of their abilities without results?

Quality time spent must be a combination of education, building relationships, developing new skills. And yes, relaxing occasionally to assimilate new ideas, technologies, and strategies for improvement. Most people want to improve their skills and abilities – trust them and empower them to do so.

Face time with buyers and even competitors is far more valuable than 200 emails; 500 form letters; 2000 text messages. I will be labelled a heretic, but I believe this is far more important than Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In or any of the other social machinations. I am not discounting their importance – they can all be extremely valuable tools, and should be used to further relationships and help forge future interactions.

But conferences are all about communication, learning, growing, and improving – one on one, or in groups of peers. This is not about how quickly we can disseminate/assimilate brief snippets of computer generated personalized sound bites (and regurgitating the information to our lists of contacts.)

Surrounding ourselves with, and physically interacting with, people of like interests and goals. This is what successful humans do. This is what we do best.


Travel and Education 101

28 05 2010

Hard to justify a four-day education conference in the Bahamas? As travel budgets evaporate and professionals in virtually every field are scrutinized for their expenses, the onus falls on the conference planner to provide fewer golf outings and deep-sea adventures.

It is easy for the professional event planner to find and organize entertaining options to entice attendees to attend their conferences, but these same attendees are now more accountable than ever to explain to their organization how the true benefits of these expenses will enhance their performance and allow them to bring more skills to the business.

Take the extra time to discover the hot topics in the industry in which your client is involved.   Check out the book

    Travel and Entertainment Best Practices

at Amazon books. Assure that your presenters are overqualified to present these topics; insist that they can provide their educational content (as well as what your attendees should be able to take away from these sessions), either in electronic form which can be linked to the conference website, or at least bulletpointed in documents they can take with them from the conference.  Offer at least four consecutive presentations to choose from, assuring there are offerings for various levels of knowledge, and repeat once each day for those who are interested in more than one topic.

Now it is time to contradict myself.  The old adage “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy”.  Learning, learning, and then learning some more, no matter how fascinating the subject matter, is exhausting.  Simply offering a cocktail reception following a grueling day of learning is just boring.  Depending on your budget, find a way to get the group completely away from the educational environment, and excite them with something unusual, entertaining, and memorable.  Let them stay out and play a little later – start your next day ‘s sessions at 10:00 AM instead of 8:00 AM.  They will learn more, retain more, and appreciate more if they are allowed a bit of recess time.

Your attendees will thank you, and the people who grudgingly authorized the expense will see immediate results in rejuvenated workers.  Sure this is a tough economy, but the companies who stop investing in performance enhancing activities for their employees will be  left standing in the dust when the economy improves, and their competitor’s well-educated employees will be miles ahead of the curve.