The running joke in the industry is if you want travel agents to show up to your industry event, provide free food. If you want more agents to show up, add drinks. If you want a stampede of agents so you can elevate your attendee numbers, serve shrimp. (This has been proven on countless occasions!)
As I prepared to head to Seattle for Travel Weekly’s Cruiseworld 2012 last month, I find myself hoping I would get some good shrimp at the event. I’m not just talking about the food, though I’ll take two servings, please! In this case, I think of the shrimp as what I’m really there for – it is one thing I am really hoping to get, and it is a safe bet many others think the same way. These shows are, in a word, expensive: travel expenses to and from the host city, then the show registration costs, then meals, and the hotel costs – it all adds up and fast. It’s not uncommon to spend $1,000 or more to attend these live events, so understandably agents are little apprehensive about getting their money’s worth.
After all, attending functions like these is an investment in professional growth and networking. Oftentimes, I’ll meet someone at a trade show that ends up becoming a vital link in my support network, or they’ll become someone I set up a referral partnership with. Many times, they become really good friends that are indispensable in getting through the craziness we deal with in our profession. But as nice as all that is, the professional growth is top priority – I attend these events to learn from those who have “been there, done it, and gotten the t-shirt” as well as from those who I respect, like Mike Marchev, Nolan Burris, Stuart Cohen, and Richard Earls. It’s about professional development – how can I be better at what I do? How can I serve my clients better?
It’s common to attend these events, spend time in the learning sessions and get all energized and filled with great ideas for the business, only to return home and quickly get swamped under the maelstrom of phone calls and emails that need returned, client trips that need invoicing, social media that needs social media-ing … the laundry list seems never-ending! Some folks try to “do it all” and fret from one session to another to another without any real processing of the information they’re receiving, and at the end of the night the notes get stuffed into the briefcase and forgotten about until much later, when the ideas and thoughts aren’t really there anymore.
I try to keep things in check by only attending educational sessions I feel will be a benefit to me or my business operations. For example, sessions on honeymoons and destination weddings aren’t as attractive to me as ones on marketing, social media, cruise groups, or different European countries. I also try hard not to plan things so that I’m running back to back with sessions from morning ‘til night – I try to pick and choose so that I can have periods of time throughout the day to sit down, process what I’ve just learned, get notes in order, and generally re-group. I also make time to network and socialize in the evenings, instead of heading back to the hotel and staying in my room all night.
In the end, I return to my office filled with new ideas that I remember, and that I have a plan of action for, and though I may not implement things right away, I’m prepared to incorporate new ideas and new methods into making my business better for myself and for my clients. It makes the investment worth it in the end.
And, as a bonus, I usually get my two servings of shrimp!
Steve Cousino, ACC, CTA, LS is a six-year industry veteran and owner of Exclusive Events At Sea and Journeys By Steve with specializations in group cruising, individual ocean & river cruising, and personalized experiences in Europe, especially the British Isles. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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