Vanda Ametlli, IIE Great Lakes Region Vice President, Henry Ford Health System
Attending a national conference can be an overwhelming experience. What sessions to attend? What to wear? How to approach other conference attendees? How to make the best of your time? As I am preparing to attend my fourth IIE National Conference, I have learned over the past years that like many things, preparation is key! Before you start thinking about sessions to attend, it’s important to set some primary/secondary goals that you want to accomplish. Goals can be centered on:
- Networking with a diverse group of industrial engineers throughout the nation
- Investigating simulation software vendors that you might want to bring back to your job
- Attending presentations focusing on application of lean methodology across various industries
- Participate in soft professional skills development sessions (leadership, strategic planning)
- Be up to date with latest risk modeling research, technology development in homeland security and contribution of IEs
Once you have an understanding of outcomes that you want to accomplish by your attendance at this conference, it’s time to start building your itinerary!
ISERC & Applied Sessions
IIE conference is split into two areas:
ISERC – The Industrial and Systems Engineering Research Conference (ISERC), is a forum for exchanging knowledge and discovered in the industrial and systems engineering research community. ISERC sessions begin on Sunday, May 18th.
Applied Solutions – The purpose of the Applied Solutions sessions “is to present proven solutions from applying industrial and systems engineering principles within industry, healthcare or service companies”. These sessions begin on Monday, May 19th.
The IIE conference website has posted program schedule and the ability to build your electronic itinerary. As you browse, on sessions that you want to attend some tips to keep in mind and learned over the years:
- Don’t attend presentations that are in your current industry. IE skills are transferrable whether service or military industry. Be open to what you can learn from other industries.
- Don’t be turned off by the “research” part in ISERC. I have attended some of the best presentations through ISERC. They’re great presentations to let you know what research is being done at a national level to solve complex IE problems. In the ISERC track you can go from IEs in Military, Homeland Security, Energy, Work Systems, Tutorials and Construction Research. There’s plenty of diversity!
- If you’re goal is to focus on leadership presentations, Applied Solutions through the Industry Advisory Board track has a range of leadership presentations and outstanding speakers that focus on participants that are in different stages of their career.
- Don’t go to sessions that you know a lot about. This seems like common sense advice but I have found that you get bored very quickly if you have a good understanding of the topic.
Special Programs in the Conference:
Exhibitor Booths/Graduate School/Technical Paper Competitions
I’ll admit that I do like the Exhibitor Booths for the free highlighters and office supplies but make sure to jump in during the exhibit hall hours. There are different exhibitors showcasing software and tools for Industrial Engineers. While, you might need a software at the time of the attendance, it’s always a great reference to have if you are faced for example with a simulation project and want to test different products in the market to meet your needs.
What I think is a hidden secret of this conference is the opportunity to speak with department chairs of some outstanding graduate school programs. When, I attended my first conference in Miami, as a senior looking at graduate school programs, through the IIE conference, I had an opportunity to find out about type of specializations different graduate schools offered through stopping by at their booths but also through the IIE sponsored networking receptions. As a student, utilize your faculty advisor or faculty representative to introduce you to department and faculty chairs from different schools and ask as many questions! (program areas, industry relationships, research, scholarships and etc)
IIE has a great social media exposure at the conference and many attendees participate and offer their thoughts on presentations. Stay up to date with all the conference social media outlets and use them as a guide on sessions to attend but also as a way to connect with any attendees with special interest.
Young Professional (YP) Presence
Last year, the YP group had a strong presence at the conference in connecting soon to be graduates with the group and current young professionals and offering suggested sessions to attend! Stay tuned in this blog for suggested sessions for 2013!
You have your agenda and you’re ready to conquer and make the most of this conference but still think you could do more to prepare…
Professional Conference Buddy:
As silly as this might sound, having a conference buddy is a great idea to collaborate and discuss conference learning for presentations that both of one of you attended.
The main advice for attending a long national conference is to make sure you following business professional guidelines but also comfortable! Jeans are a definite no at this conference!
Networking/ Business Cards
This is the hard part of attending a big conference – the networking. If you’re like me, and talking to new people in large crowds is terrifying (okay not terrifying but uncomfortable), you have to step out of the comfort zone and make an attempt to talk to as many attendees. You do get better throughout the conference and becomes more natural! The great part is that you need to view this as a “safe zone”. It’s land of industrial engineers and we’re all friendly so take advantage of the great networking opportunities offered throughout the conference. You’ll be amazed at the range of educational and professional experiences everyone brings to this conference.
Bring plenty of these but if you have watched Season 1, Ep. 7 of “Workaholics”, don’t get too crazy about giving and getting as many business cards. There’s no race or winning prize. Make an effort to talk to your new connections throughout the conference!
The IIE National Conference is a high quality and well-planned conference! Making the most out of it does not only help you as an attendee to strengthen your professional development but gives your employer a reason to continue sponsoring you in such events!
Feel free to post any comments on additional advise to making the most out your conference experience and any questions that you might have.
I look forward to meeting you at THE national conference!!