Embrace Education: Ways To Optimize Your Learning Experience

The moment we enter a meeting, our educational experience begins. From the signage and staff who greet us, to the table guests we share lunch with, every part of a gathering provides learning opportunities.

Like anything in life, we have to want to be educated. When we attend a MPISCC gathering, we need to give careful thought to our own attendee engagement. How are we going to connect that day? Are we going to arrive on time and be ready to network? Have we brought along enough business cards to share with new business relationships? Will we be proactive and introduce ourselves to new contacts? Or, as of 7:00 a.m. that day are we already regretting that we registered for the monthly program?  Have we planned our arrival to get to the venue as soon as the opening networking reception is concluding?  Do we plan on sitting at a quiet half-empty table at the rear of the ballroom to encounter as few people as possible?  Well, hopefully each MPISCC member embraces the chance to fill up on education, connect through networking, and enjoy member engagement.

I can say truthfully that some of the best learning experiences have been conversations with people at my table.

Having attended many hundreds of chapter programs through the years, I can say truthfully that some of the best learning experiences have been conversations with people at my luncheon table.  I enjoy finding a table with new members and people I’ve not met. It’s what our association is all about – PEOPLE. I remember what it was like when I attended my first MPI meeting at the Disneyland Hotel way back in 1984.  I didn’t know a soul.  The first person I met was Joe Diamond, who would later become a trusted friend and respected supplier. He couldn’t have been more gracious and welcoming. It all began with Joe.

Be Attentive

When it comes to the education aspects, for me it’s not just about the speaker. I like to take it all in. From my seat I observe and listen to everything taking place around me. I take in the staging setup and themed decorations. I’m curious what type of lectern is being used. Does the sound system work without feedback? Is there one screen or multiple screens so that the audience can read the copy clearly? Will the speaker move away from the lectern and engage the audience with her or his movement?

I notice everything at my table. The centerpiece, place settings, printed materials, and small table gifts. Can I see over or through the centerpieces?  How is the lighting? Are sponsor names prominently featured and displayed for the meeting attendees to see?  Has a table host been assigned?  And, most important for me – is our chapter president walking the floor and visiting each of the tables?  This is so important for our president and board members to do.

Over the years, there’s been one chapter member who, for me, has epitomized the term ambassador – that is Carlos Murillo.  Over and over again I’ve watched this wonderful chapter member share his enormous smile and warm embrace as he makes his way around the room. He’s MPISCC at its finest!

Be Prepared

As we participate in chapter programs, here are a few pointers  to help you get the most from your overall experience:

Register early, bring a colleague, and attend!

Bring business cards. Set a goal to share your cards with a minimum of 20 new contacts.  Our network is like gold – the more we have, the richer our membership becomes.

Stay for the entire program. This includes the networking reception, plated luncheon, and educational program.

Stay in touch. Collect the names of those involved with the program; the chapter president, guest speakers, hotel hosts, and other important sponsors.  That same week, send each of them a LinkedIn invitation and a thank you note. Take this opportunity to expand your network and share praise with your industry counterparts. They’ll be thrilled and quite grateful to hear from you.

Dress professionally. You never know who you may meet; possibly a future employer, client, or business partner. First impressions are everything.

Be in the moment. Turn off your cell phone during the luncheon and educational program.  There is nothing ruder than attendees who spend more time with their devices than their association partners.  Email and business calls can wait until 2:00 p.m.  They really can.

Purchase an opportunity ticket.  Bring some cash with you to support the cause that’s being featured that day.

Minimize talking during presentations.  Side conversations are disrespectful to the speaker, the board, and your fellow audience members. When speakers address us from the stage, it’s time to focus on them.

Look for opportunities to give back. At monthly programs, you may meet a chairperson of an upcoming conference, event, or trade show. This could be the perfect time to volunteer and offer your support. That’s how my MPISCC journey began in 1986 with the annual trade show. I volunteered on a committee led by Michelle Doroshow with such notable chapter members as Bill Doak, George Hutcheson, and Tim McGill.  We had a wonderful time and I learned so much from each and every one of them.

Make the most of an MPISCC event. Let go of everything else happening in your world and simply enjoy the entire experience — conversations, education, food, networking, laughter and all the rest. You’ll make life-long friendships and enhance your knowledge of this wonderful industry.

 Thomas Smith CMP, CMM