This past week, I had the pleasure of attending two conferences that were completely different from one another. The week started (well, last week ended) with attending the infamous SXSW conference in Austin. From there, I attended “How to Run Your Dealership by the Book” in Charlotte.
On one side, I got to hear people like Al Gore, Matt Cutts, and Elon Musk talk about the future of the internet and the world in general. On the other side, I got to hear Bobby Compton, Troy Springs, and Dave Anderson discuss applying Biblical principals to running a car dealership. You couldn’t have had two conferences that were more different from one another. Now that I’m back home reflecting, I can say without a doubt that the small conference was where I gained the most useful knowledge, connections, and real friendships.
It says something about the state of conferences on the general and niche circuits today. Don’t get me wrong, there was a certain awe that’s always associated with the mega-conferences like SXSW, NADA, and New Media Expo that always give their attendees great takeaways from which they can make strategic changes to their business strategy, but the coziness of the smaller conferences lends something that you just can’t get at the big ones.
It’s the people. You can only talk to a handful of people in a day. Conferences often give us the opportunity to network and at the big conferences there are obviously more opportunities just based upon sheer bulk. However, the quality of the connections that I made at the smaller conference are the type that I believe will last longer, possibly indefinitely, and lead me and my company in different directions. With all of the masses of information that I took in at SXSW this month and NADA last month, I can say that most were really just useful tidbits. In Charlotte, I have tangible actions that are going to be applied immediately.
As you plan out the rest of your conference year and look to next year, take advantage of the cozy conferences. Next week, I’ll be speaking at both the Innovative Dealer Summit in Denver as well as the Internet Sales 20 Group in Dallas. Both are small – under 500 people combined – but I anticipate that I’ll learn more and meet more real people next week than at any of the mega-conferences. With the Automotive Marketing Boot Camp, AutoCon, Digital Dealer, and Driving Sales around the corner, those in the automotive industry should strongly consider attending them all. They aren’t NADA. That’s a good thing.