Recently I was privileged to attend the SalesPad Panels convention in Grand Rapids, MI. Given my years of experience, it still amazes me how much I am able to learn when I attended these seminars. When times are busy and money is tight, it is important to really make an effort to budget for attending a user conference that will enhance your over-all understanding of a system that you may use every day. We all think that we know it all, right?
You never know what may be offered outside of the normal learning tools we are provided such as web training, user manuals, internal documentation, user groups, etc.
Several obvious incentives to go to a user conference:
- It breaks your routine and may put you in an environment where you can really absorb the material presented, enlightening you to areas of process improvement for your company.
- You get a great opportunity to network with many others just like you. Learning ways that they were able to get through similar struggles with new solutions.
- You have an opportunity to get “face time” on support issues. Having one on one attention with developers or support staff may help you get current issues resolved quickly.
- Building good relationships with your Vendor is always helpful, especially when you have urgent support needs in the future.
- If you are a new user this provides an opportunity to mass-submerge yourself in training.
- Professional Development and Personal Professional Goals. If you are not sure how to suggest future professional development items to your supervisor in your next review, this provides you with an excellent opportunity.
So what’s the best way to prepare for user conferences? We all know that we could just ask. But often times we are rejected because our supervisors cannot see the big picture with this a one-off request. Preparing for the user conference that you would like to attend may take a few minutes of prep-time a few months (to a year) before you actually submit it for your budget.
- Start with asking your Microsoft Certified Business Partner to provide some advice on what user conferences are available. Given that CAI is knowledgeable on your current applications, we can suggest conferences and up-coming events that are a fit for you. Make a list of these suggested conferences.
- If you are part of a user group, review the forum for recommended conferences.
- “Ask the internet” – search on User Conference for <Fill in the blank>
- Take time to go online and print out the agenda for the suggested conferences. Read through the training topics and select topics that are of interest to you.
- In preparation for submission of your proposal, outline the topics from the convention with a brief description on how this would benefit the company or your professional development.
- Do some research on travel (airfare, trains, hotels, registration costs, etc.) Be prepared to provide this as an estimate for consideration.
- Ask your work colleagues if they would be interested in attending as well. You can always save money driving together or sharing a hotel if it is appropriate. Having a colleague to bounce ideas off of is also a great way to have a better learning experience.
- Review departmental schedules and be prepared to offer a suggestion on who will cover you while you are away from the office.
- Plan to share with your supervisor how you intend on “sharing the knowledge”, whether it is in a staff meeting or a quick presentation. Assurance on your desire to manage any “Action Items” that come out of this event, may be a great way to showcase your vested interest in the improvement of departmental processes.
We are always available to help you with this process. If you have any questions, please contact me Mackenzie@tdcarp.com.