When Big Isn’t Always Better

By John Rezell, Executive Editor, SportsEvents Magazine

Let’s face it, the greatest benefit of working and playing in the sports field is immersing yourself in the culture of carpe diem, where your goal each day is to find some way to improve your performance and better yourself — just like an athlete training for an event.

Conferences are great opportunities to inspire yourself and grow. But not all conferences are created equal.

At my last job, I attended some great conferences that one wouldn’t typically connect with our business. A lot of people would wonder what I was doing there in the first place. Taking a leap of faith like that isn’t something you do in a mega conference, with thousands of attendees. You just get lost in the shuffle. You are a needle in a hay field.

In smaller conferences, where you would have to actually work hard NOT to make any great connections and new relationships, this tactic cultivated fantastic results.

When you aren’t focused on simply attempting to move through masses of people, you get the opportunity to stop and chat with a lot of people. It seemed to me the fewer people at a conference, the more individuals I actually talked to and met. Not only that, the discussions had substance; they weren’t just polite chit-chat.

Many of those meaningful conversations started with the simple discussion on why I was there in the first place, when it might not make sense on the surface. Those creative talks sparked ideas of how to connect us and helped us consider new projects and programs since, really, isn’t that why we were both there in the first place? Carpe Diem?

Even if our agendas didn’t naturally connect, we found plenty to discuss that both of us could apply to our businesses. So often I made a new contact who would come back to assist me weeks, maybe months or even years later.

It made me think about the question I heard at one of these smaller conferences. Think about a conversation you’ve had that had a real impact on you. Got it? OK, now how many people were involved in that conversation?

If you are like me, it was one or two individuals. Applying this to conferences, I can’t think of a huge conference that rewarded me as much as so many smaller conferences have. A smaller conference invites you to be part of its essence. They are inclusive.

The best part of small conferences is that you actually spend time talking to people instead of wandering aimlessly in the crowd looking at your smartphone trying to find a way to get something worthwhile out of your time.