Procurement conferences 101
There’s only one silver lining to the end of summer, and that’s the ramp-up of procurement conference season! Procurement conferences are a unique opportunity to connect with peers across the country and learn a lot in a short time.
Whether you’re making the trip to the annual NIGP Forum next week or heading to a conference closer to home this fall, here are our top tips for making the most of your time away from the office:
Before the procurement conference
A productive conference experience starts before the registration booth opens, says Bonfire field marketing specialist Kait Stratis, who is responsible for managing Bonfire’s attendance at upwards of 30 procurement events per year.
“Understand why you’re attending in the first place. Set a goal for what you’re trying to learn and what problems you’re trying to solve,” she advises.
With that in mind, you can loosely plan out your speaker sessions and expo visits to ensure you are getting what you came for.
Once you get there, don’t be afraid to deviate from the schedule as new opportunities arise. Taking some time to think about your goals in advance allows you to adjust on the fly, while ensuring you don’t miss the must-do sessions.
“Conferences are a great opportunity to explore,” says Kait. “Keep an open mind to new speakers and vendors, hear them out, and understand what they’re trying to do for the procurement world.”
At the conference
Making new connections in public procurement
Meeting other procurement folk is one of the biggest benefits of attending a procurement conference. Especially in the siloed world of public procurement, it can be a game-changer to have a trusted group of peers to call up with questions or swap templates.
However, approaching strangers to make these connections can be daunting.
Kait has some advice. “Getting involved by asking questions in session Q&As is a great way to naturally start a conversation,” she says. Take the opportunity to chat with speakers after the session as well—after all, they’re at the front of the room for a reason and likely have more useful knowledge to share than could fit in their 60-minute presentation.
Keynotes and speaker sessions provide common ground that serves as a jumping-off point to connect with fellow audience members, too.
Beyond that, it’s sometimes just a matter of breaking the ice.
“Just say hello,” Kait says. “I have never seen an instance at a professional conference where someone starts a conversation and regrets it.”
Making the most of keynotes and speaker sessions
The biggest challenge at a conference is information overload. With multiple hours or even days of learning, it can be a blur.
Taking notes is key. Veteran procurement writer Jason Busch has a tip to force yourself not to slack on the note-taking: prepare a short presentation on the material for the day you get back. Whether you ever use the presentation or not, this forces you to pay attention, synthesize, and relate the information back to your organization. And when it comes time to share what you’ve learned with colleagues back home, you’re already prepared.
It’s also a good practice to set aside some time at the end of each day to reflect and note the highlights.
“Take five minutes to debrief each night and reflect: what was it today that grabbed me? What did I learn?” advises Kait.
Will we see you at NIGP?
If digitization of your procurement function is one of the topics you’re hoping to explore at NIGP, don’t miss the session “Procurement Transformation: Modular Tools for Faster Results” on Tuesday at 1:45 pm. Omar Salaymeh, Bonfire’s Director of Client Success, will host a panel with procurement officials from Ventura County and Region 10 Education Service Centre to discuss how they led digital transformation efforts in their organizations.
Above all, enjoy the opportunity to step outside the hustle and bustle of your day job to improve your procurement process and build your career!