I am learning so much about my niche/specialty and feel like I’m doing a great job keeping up with education from both my host and suppliers. Do I really need to attend national conferences and trade shows? Suppliers do a great job of providing educational content on their product and your host agency (especially GTN!) works diligently bringing you training on best practices, client attraction and business coaching. While your host agency is a fantastic place to launch your career, and attending its Annual Conference should definitely be a priority, once you get your feet under you a little bit in this business, it is very important to start spreading your wings and checking out some of the additional offerings that go on outside your new world. But, be careful because some are better than others! Here are my top 3 reasons why attending a large national conference/trade show is a great idea:
- RELATIONSHIPS!!!! Relationships are the key to success in this industry. Let me repeat that….RELATIONSHIPS ARE THE KEY TO SUCCESS IN THIS INDUSTRY. Got it? There are so many different types of valuable relationships, but in this case I’m talking about other travel professionals, the suppliers and the folks who actually put on the conferences. It is very eye-opening to meet other travel professionals from all facets of the industry and figure out how both impressive and horrifying their own situations can be. National shows take a village to organize and the folks who do that work are valuable partners in our industry. Some of my best friends in the industry work for Travel Weekly, who sponsors CruiseWorld and the Global Travel Marketplace every year. They have been a great source of information, support, fun and referrals over the years! It’s important to remember that it’s not only WHAT you know in this business…WHO you know is almost more important!
- Exposure to high-level executives for the travel supplier companies. There is just something about sitting in the crowd, watching and listening to the top execs from all of the major cruise lines or tour operators share what is happening with their own companies, as well as the travel industry as a whole. The companies become “real” because you have a face, name, voice and personality attached. I think it makes choosing a supplier for an inquiry easier when you have a feel for that supplier and its values, message and management.
- Get out of your home office and stretch your comfort zone! I am one of those people who can speak on the stage in front of hundreds of travel industry peers and not even get nervous – but put me in a small Chamber of Commerce networking group where I know no one and I fade into the wallpaper. If you tend to shy away from networking, remember that everyone at these types of events are YOUR PEOPLE! We all speak the same language – TRAVEL! It’s a great place to hone those networking skills in a comfortable and safe environment.
So, when you feel like you have your business organized and on the right track, start to branch out and make attending an out-of-host-agency event every year. Most Consortiums offer a great annual or bi-annual conference and that is a great place to start. If you wonder about the other opportunities that may appear in your email inbox, feel free to reach out and ask for my opinion! But, don’t just sit in your home office and limit yourself to online trainings. Get out and meet somebody!