Training & Education: Conference ROI

Training & Education: Conference ROI
Attending conferences is nice… but what are you getting out of them? (Photo: Jack Kazmierski)

Harness the power of training, by putting new ideas to good use in your store.

By the time this article hits your dealership many of the core conferences and single day events will be in the books for 2018. Associations, vendors and “the big shows in Vegas” will have, once again, done an excellent job providing opportunities for dealers to raise their strategic games. Many of you reading this will have more than likely attended one or some of these events. Maybe you sent a contingent from the store on your behalf?

So I ask you, now what? You showed up, filled a seat, ate the catering and took plenty of notes (maybe). What are you doing with all that new knowledge? Was there anything that stood out that could make a real difference for your dealership? Did everyone come back excited about what they learned? Are you getting ROI from your conference investment?

If you’re unsure, it’s easy to get with your team and leverage what they learned to get a plan in place for the dealership. Here are my recommended steps.

Regroup

Take a quick meeting asking all conference attendees to come with their notes from the event and give them enough time to also think about which session(s) they found most valuable.

Once everyone has weighed in, ask if those sessions can be built into a proper strategy that can be built and run for at least one quarter to test. Those tests will determine whether it’s an “always on ” strategy or an “intermittent” one. Leave this meeting with one or two strong ideas to work towards.

Plan

Based on the meeting, send your teams away to plan and prepare the selected strategies to be re-reviewed by all necessary stakeholders—keeping in mind there are two types of conference attendees, the listeners, and the note takers.

The note takers can jump right in and more than likely have a notebook crammed with insights they gleaned from the sessions they attended. This might be a larger ask for those of us who are “the listening” type (present company included), but there is a very useful “hack” I learned coming out of a conference.

If there is a speaker whose content I really connected with or a show where I know I can get a video or slideshow from, then I reach out to the show for session recordings or I contact that speaker to reconnect, so I can revisit their session and ask any questions that may arise from our call or video conference.

They may even offer to do a repeat performance for your team online. Take them up on it. It’s a great refresher. Do any extra research that may enhance the idea, hold a brainstorming session internally with your team, and build a well-thought-out strategy for the original idea.

Present

After the planning phase, seven to 10 days tops, have the team members who are leading the strategy present a fuller scope of the idea(s), how they envision it rolling out, timelines, internal/external support, production budgets, and finally KPIs (key performance indicators). This way, the leadership team can best assess the full view of the approach and decide which will roll out first.

Execute

Upon approval of the ideas, have the teams jump into their work-back schedule and ensure that all parties who have said they would be responsible for different aspects of the strategy clearly understand their own timelines and deliverables.

Schedule small check-in meetings throughout the work-back schedule to ensure that nothing pulls the project out of scope. Ensure that thorough internal reviews are conducted with all key stakeholders, and when all involved are satisfied that the new strategy is ready for market, hit the switch!

Measure

Give every new strategy or idea at least one quarter to bake in. I recommend two quarters if possible. It will just give you more time to truly understand the data coming back and whether it is viable for the store. Always go back to the KPIs the group agreed upon that would define the desired return.

This may seem like a lot of work, and it can be if your staff is attending conferences without being asked to do more than just that, attend. Consider the time and budget you put towards having people away from the store to expand their knowledge on ways to help the store. If there isn’t any accountability or expectations towards a return on the investment you make on these events, you cannot expect to truly move forward. If your team adopts this workflow post-event after reading this, think about how button downed they can be the next time the show schedules heat back up!

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