If you’re a leader in your organization, industry or community, chances are there are a lot of places beyond the four walls of your building that you conduct business.
Most weeks I find myself in one of those many places. I regularly participate in community fundraisers, attend industry trips, take in a sports game with clients or employees or enjoy one of our own company-sponsored events like our recent pheasant hunt for a cause. Although it may not look like I’m working, I really am.
This past weekend I attended Holly Ball, one of our community’s largest fundraisers and a holiday tradition for many. Marco has long been a sponsor of this event that raises money for hospice care at St. Cloud Hospital. Sure, the event is considered “work” in some ways, but it’s one of the events that I choose to attend because I have fun mingling with clients, employees and other community members. I am selective and intentional about the activities that I choose to participate in.
Here’s how I make the most out of an event:
- How I decide.
I turn down more events than I attend – by far. I determine if the event will be purposeful and productive before I put it on my calendar. I typically don’t attend events about products. I prefer industry events with an element of strategy because I want to gain insight from other leaders on best practices in our industry. If it happens to be in a warm climate over a Minnesota winter, that’s okay, too.
- Think beyond selling.
Conducting work outside of the office is not all about selling. In some cases, it’s about validating a relationship with a vendor, client or cause. I recently attended an after hours event for one of our clients because it was important to them and I wanted to show my support. Sometimes I’ll attend events to support a leader or board members of a specific nonprofit organization. I feel it is part of our responsibility as a larger employer to be active in the communities we serve.
- Seek out someone.
Events outside the office can serve as an icebreaker and provide opportunities to connect with someone new or deepen a relationship with an acquaintance. I try to connect with people at a social event so I get to know them better. It makes it easier to interact with them for business reasons later. Whether I’m attending our sales quota trip or a community fundraiser, I seek out people I don’t normally get to see. In some cases, I look for people who are in a totally different circle, or perhaps a different generation, so I can continue to build a variety of connections.
- Engage in intentional conversations.
It’s not enough to just show up at an event. The conversation matters. It’s easy to make small talk – and stay there. But making events productive requires thoughtful dialogue. My conversations typically initiate with some business-related topic. Then I seek to learn more about the person or their business.
These times outside of the office are some of my favorite. Some are more extravagant than others like traveling to the British Isles last summer for an industry event or attending the Masters as a part of an earned incentive trip with a vendor. But I like the simple ones too. Most have elements of productivity and pleasure that makes them worth attending. So if you see me in our social media posts out having a good time, I probably am. But be assured, there is an element of work involved, too.