Regional, state and national beef industry meetings normally are held during winter, spring and fall.

The 2019 meeting schedule began with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Cattle Industry Convention and Tradeshow held in New Orleans from Jan. 30 through Feb. 1. The next big meeting for Texas and Oklahoma beef cattle producers is the Cattle Raisers Convention March 29-31 in Fort Worth. Other large meetings will be conducted later in the year.

Two-day or longer meetings normally require travel, lodging, meals and meeting registration fees, which are expensive. To justify the expenses, an attendee needs to get as much benefit from the meeting as possible and this requires planning. Toward the end of last year, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association hosted a webinar during which Tim Hammerich, founder of AgGrad and host of the “Future of Agriculture” podcast, discussed how to get the most out of beef industry meetings.

Information in this article is taken from Hammerich’s presentation.

What should you get out of an industry event?

Before arrangements are made to attend an industry event, ask yourself the following question: “Why am I going?” Determine at least one goal to achieve at the meeting by writing the one thing you want to accomplish. There are seven possible reasons for attending, one of which might fit your situation. The first reason to consider is to meet new people in the industry such as suppliers, cattle buyers, university extension specialists, ag credit irms, Natural Resources Conservation Service conservationists, or other people who can have an influence on your operation.

Another reason to attend is the possibility of re-connecting with old friends. Maybe you haven’t interacted with them for a while and you want to re-kindle the relationship. Professional development is a good reason for attending an industry event. Most beef cattle events have qualified speakers who provide the latest technology in breeding, nutrition, animal health, livestock handling, business management and other pertinent topics. Adoption of some of the presented information may help to become a better producer.

Many industry events offer opportunities to find new customers. Maybe you are looking for a new cattle buyer or someone to lease your property for hunting. In addition, existing relationships are often strengthened at these events. If you market a certain type of cattle, an industry meeting is a good place to build or maintain your brand presence.

Last but not least, maybe the reason for attending is to have fun. Most large events have dinners, receptions, dances, sight-seeing tours and various types of entertainment that you and your family might enjoy. Some producers use industry events as family vacations.

Before attending the next event, outline a people strategy. Who are the 10 most important people to achieving your success and what can you do to deepen those relationships? Ask them what they can do to help you reach your goals. You may feel, at first, that this is using people to achieve success, but most people are flattered by the question.

Develop a network of mentors and influencers. Whether you know the target people or not, arrange meetings prior to attending the event. Do not depend on catching them at the tradeshow where it is extremely hard to get anyone’s undivided attention. If you don’t have contact information for a person on your list, try connecting through social media.

Settings for building relationships include breakfast, lunch or dinner; coffee or cocktails; city attractions and tours; sports such as playing golf, shooting skeet or attending a basketball game; outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing or boating; or attending cultural events. Ensure that you and your invitee will enjoy the activity you choose.

Before arranging meetings, review the event program to determine the presentations of interest and then schedule meetings around them. Pack appropriate clothing for the event and don’t forget to include a sufficient quantity of business cards. You might want to take small gifts, bearing the ranch name, for the people you are going to meet.

Get what you give

The more you give to an organization or event, the more you will receive. By becoming part of the event rather than just attending, you meet a lot of people and gain an in-depth knowledge about the event and the industry it represents.

A great way to get involved is to volunteer. A big event requires a lot of people to keep it running smoothly and volunteers greatly are appreciated. Volunteer opportunities include working at the registration desk, taking tickets, introducing speakers, serving as time keepers during presentations and distributing written materials. A great opportunity is to serve as a VIP host. There is no better way to build a rapport with people than picking them up at the airport and serving as their escort while they are at the event.

If it is financially feasible, hosting a social activity is a great way to become known in the industry. The activity might involve serving drinks in a hotel suite or co-sponsoring a meal or some other activity through the event organizer. A very economical way to volunteer is to post reports of activities on social media to make those who couldn’t attend feel involved. You might want to produce media, such as videos, to share with the public. Often volunteering is as simple as introducing people to acquaintances who might help them achieve their goals. You also can offer to give a presentation on a topic of interest to the attendees. When interacting with people at the big events, always ask who else should you talk with concerning the achievement of your goals.

Follow up or fail

If you don’t follow up with your contacts after the event is over, you will lose the value gained at the meeting. Mark a date on your calendar for follow-up to ensure it gets done.

Follow-up may be as simple as an email or a handwritten note expressing gratitude for the time spent with them. A telephone call will work as well. If you have a resource pertaining to the idea discussed, send it to them. It will make a good impression because it lets them know you were listening to what they said.

More participants are brought into the discussion by putting a tag on social media about talking with a person on a certain subject during the event. In that way, more information is revealed from people who read the post and respond to it. You might want to send the contact a small gift that is related to your conversation. Introducing them to another person who might help them answer their questions is a good follow-up. A visit to your contact’s operation or business also might be beneficial.

It is very easy to attend a three-day industry event and then wonder what you accomplished. Creating a plan before you go can derive benefits and make attendance worthwhile. Do some pre-planning before attending the Cattle Raisers Convention this month and see if the preparation doesn’t pay big dividends.

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