How to Ensure Your Attendance at A Conference Delivers An ROI

As the kids go back to school, maintenance, reliability, and asset management professional resume their professional learning.  This learning usually takes place at one of the numerous world-class conferences available across North America and internationally.  These conferences allow professionals to observe and connect with the latest tools, technology, and techniques in our amazing professional.

Sometimes it is difficult for the maintenance, reliability, and asset management professionals to get the approval or funding to attend the conference. Some organizations look at these events as a week of vacation, where there is little to no value from attending the conference.  Changing this perception is not an easy task, but can be started by having an intention for the conference.

For those that do have the funding to attend one or two of these conferences, the organizations expect results or changes from the learnings obtained at the conference.  To generate a return on investment, the intention will be required.

So how can you ensure you get the most out of your next maintenance, reliability, and asset management conference?  Make sure to implement the following tips;

Go in With a Plan

This does not have to be the typical improvement plan, filled with tasks, subtasks, timelines, etc.  The plan can be as simple as thinking about and writing the following down (yes you need to write it down);

  • What is the purpose of attending?  Is it to learn more about a specific topic that your organization is implementing, or to evaluate potential technology solutions.  By understanding the purpose of the trip, you can focus your time.
  • What results do you want to achieve?  Is it to select the technology solution? Identify barriers that other organizations encountered during the implementation of the specific topic?  As with good PM routines, quantify the results you want to achieve.

Before going to the conference, be sure to think about the purpose of attending and results expected with your manager to ensure there is alignment.


Once you arrive at the conference, there will be people everywhere.  Consultants, practitioners, vendors, etc.  At the conference, you have the opportunity to connect with others who have or are going through the same issues you are.  So how do you get the most from meeting these people?

  • Ask, how can you provide value to others? Can you introduce people to others how a common issue have?  Can you provide an opinion or information to help someone overcome a problem?  By providing value to others, people will remember you and may be able to help you achieve your results
  • Connect with colleagues and previous connections ahead of time.  This will allow you to schedule time and make it a point to grab a coffee with your existing network, that you may only see once a year.

Often you will end up seeing the same people at the same conference each year or different ones.  Connect with and provide value; you will not just meet people, but grow a network you can lean on and depend on when needed.


Why else would you sit through the presentations aside from trying to learn?  Entertainment, not likely unless the paper is presented by those guys that make even the most boring topics exciting (yes Shon Isenhour, I am talking about you).  But learning does not just occur by just listening.  Make sure to get the most learning out of the conference by;

  • Taking Notes causes our brains to retain more information, then just by listening.  If you are like me, it also ensures you don’t forget those key points or one-liners that made the presentation worth it.  As a bonus, you can show your boss that you were actually at the conference and not on the beach.
  • Discussing the Topic with those in the presentation (after the presentation of course), or with the presenter.  By discussing and internalizing the information, the topic will be better understood.  Many presenters are more than happy to clarify or discuss the topic, so make sure to clarify your
  • Formulating a Plan to implement the learnings upon your return.  This does not have to be a big plan, but think about the one thing that you can implement your first day back and what can you do on day two or week two.

Learning is an active activity and requires the learner to actively work and want to retain the information.  There are many different techniques to improve learning and retention, but I have personally found these to be particularly effective.


Once you finally get back from the conference, it is time to act.  Here is where the pre-planning, connections, and learnings will generate the ROI.   Often, it is common to get back from the conference and fall into the routine, and the best of the intentions fade away.  This is why I recommend formulating a plan to implement the learnings during the sessions.  With the plan formulated, it just needs to be implemented;

  • Start Small with small actions.  If you try to go large, there will be more barriers, and the urge to act and implement the learnings will fade.  By keeping it simple and small, the implementation will be kept simple.
  • Celebrating Success will ensure that the team and you want to continue acting on the learnings.  The celebration does not have to be big; it can be as simple as finishing your coffee before it gets cold (something many maintenance staff does not have the luxury of).

Conference season is a great time of the year, but you must go to the conferences with intention.  Without intention, your organization will not realize the ROI they are expecting.  If you are going to the annual PEMAC or SMRP conference and want to meet up for a coffee or chat, please let me know at [email protected], and we can figure out a time catch up.

Also, please comment below (or email) your tips for how to have a successful conference so that others can learn from you.  This community of maintenance, reliability, and asset management professionals, is one of the premier communities because of our willingness to share knowledge.  By sharing your tips, you are helping the wider community improve our image and the results we provide to our organizations.

Remember, to find success; you must first solve the problem, then achieve the implementation of the solution, and finally sustain winning results.

I’m James Kovacevic
Eruditio, LLC
Where Education Meets Application