Despite having been in my field for 31 years I remain a simple apprentice, still learning my trade.
I attend and participate in a great number of meetings, conferences and events every year. I know that many presenters or instructors arrive within a small window of time just ahead of their appointed program and rapidly exit after the last question or the final round of applause. I see their carry-on bag parked just out of sight behind the stage. I get it. When you spend your professional life in hotels, airports and Town Cars, the draw to get home or to the next gig is like a surfer to a good set of waves. I feel this too, but over the years I have learned a valuable lesson that I call:
THE OPPORTUNITY OF CIRCUMSTANCE.
When I get the agenda to a function, I pour over it with a zeal of interest to discover what else is going on beside my humble contribution. Who else is presenting? What are the other topics? Even in the most detailed industry specific outline of topics there is always something I can learn. I map out my time and attend as many sessions as the opportunity of my circumstances will allow.
At a recent 1,000 person meeting, I had the honor of delivering the closing keynote presentation. I arrived the day before and confirmed all the stuff that impacted me, rehearsal times, pre-event set up, checked my shipped artifact package and then moved on to hitting my planned attack points:
- I went to the evening trade show / cocktail party. I walked each aisle and visited with some of the vendors. I listened to their pitch (a short audition to generate interest). I looked at their displays, took a few photos of the ones I found interesting. Met a few people who recognized me from my picture. I discovered some interesting stuff to add to my IDEA JOURNAL.
- The next day I went to the breakfast and chose I a table to visit with attendees. I wanted to know what they thought of the meeting so far and what sessions they were going to attend. This meeting was at a major resort and the temptation of skipping anything to take advantage of what beckoned outside was ever present and understanding what they thought was important gave me some insight.
- I went in to listen to the parade of those speakers scheduled to open the meeting.
- I watched one of the worlds leading economists effortlessly take us through the global financial scene. He had simple graphics with no more than two colors in any graph. In 45 minutes I had take three pages of notes.
- He was followed by a technology expert who, unfortunately was doomed to try to explain the use of a new platform without anyone being able to actually use it. Without a direct physical connection to DOING, the ability to engage a large group in a technology application causes an almost immediate disconnect. An ocean of heads were looking down at their electronic devices as they checked email or market conditions.
- There was a break and then off to breakout sessions. I went to the one on the client experience, a critical piece of sales strategy and one in which the key element of separation and differentiation should be on display. The session was about ¼ full and in 10 minutes the presenter had droned the audience into a passive submission. Too bad, it was a good idea.
- I left and went to another session where a woman was speaking on the skill set of product presentation and she was fantastic. I took two pages of notes, even though I had never heard of the new product. She was just really good.
- Off to my set up and rehearsal for the closing afternoon session. I had talked the client into giving me 90 minutes which gave me a chance to use a full slate of multimedia, interactive tools to help turn an idea into something useful and applicable.
- I attended the dinner to get input on their thoughts and insights into my program , then jumped on the first flight home the next morning.
This is a two night application of THE OPPORTUNITYOF CIRCUMSTANCES law. I took advantage of what had been given me and the result was over five pages on new ideas and notes that may make their way into what we do. Here are the variety of idea journals we have generated over the recent past. Each is brimming with information and concepts.
An apprentice is always learning, always looking for the path to mastery, always aware of THE OPPORTUNITY OF CIRCUMSTANCES.