Rebecca Robson, Sensiba San Filippo LLP
Attending an AAM conference for the first time can be overwhelming, to say the least. A co-worker of mine once explained it as an elegant blend of content-rich seminars and uninhibited therapy sessions. Confused by this characterization, the unlikely combination made perfect sense within minutes of my first AAM session. It was an hour filled with inspiring information and innovative ideas mixed with the satisfying comfort of having fellow marketers perfectly understand the frustrations that I attempt to explain to my husband every day. While this is something you need to experience to understand, there are a few tips that can help prepare you for the whirlwind of knowledge that is an AAM Summit.
Do not be scared to talk about your struggles
It is no secret that accounting marketers are somewhat of a rare breed. Feeling stuck between the creative, energetic, and innovative world of marketing and the calculated and traditional industry of accounting can often feel like paddling up a waterfall. At AAM, you are immersed in a group of people who share your hurdles, understand your challenges, and have often overcome your exact struggles. If you allow yourself to be open and ask questions, you will be amazed at the level of unrestrained feedback you will receive. Be prepared to leave each day with gold mines of helpful hints and a fresh outlook on the work you do every day.
Bring plenty of business cards...then add more
One of the most beneficial perks of AAM is the networking. No matter how many people you think you will meet, you will probably meet more. Make sure you are prepared with enough cards to pass out the whole trip — and even extras in your pocket for when you see fellow AAMers at the airport after the festivities conclude.
Bling out your name badge
I must admit, I was hesitant to be branded with the sparkle of a first-timer ribbon on my name badge. But trust me, that ribbon is your best wingman when it comes to starting effortless conversations with both new and veteran attendees. Veterans will come up to introduce themselves, and fellow first-timers will be excited to chat with an awestruck comrade.
Check out the AAM Marketing Achievement Awards (AAM-MAAs)
The AAM-MAAs are a wonderful way to see what other firms are doing to grow their business and innovate in the industry. There are many great award categories, spanning from website redesign to fundraising efforts, all of which will inspire you to do something unique at your firm —and if you are lucky, receive an AAM-MAA nomination the next year!
Use your buddy
How early should I show up to my sessions? Where are people going for networking dinners? What the heck is the AAM App? The AAM Summit is a large (and overwhelming) event, and the odds are, you will need a good day or two to fully grasp things. The guidance of a seasoned attendee will not only help you meet people, but also will help you navigate the labyrinth of sessions, networking events, and overall flow of the Summit.
Go to the extra sessions
Every once in a while, there will be a listing for an extra session at the end of the day. Whether it is an extension to an earlier session gone too long, or a scheduled discussion with one of the keynotes, these sessions are more laid back and provide a great opportunity to get substantial information in a more intimate setting. Do not worry if it coincides with happy hour – you can bring your drink with you!
Do not forget to socialize after the sessions
While you will meet tons of people during your sessions throughout the day, there is no better opportunity to really get to know people than outside of the conference. Make sure to ask people what their plans are for later that evening, view the AAM App, or check for social media trails of folks heading out to dinner, bars, or other hangout spots. AAM is great for networking opportunities, but you also will meet great friends.
Do not over do your to-dos
As a large event with loads — and I mean loads — of information crammed into one to two hour sessions, you are guaranteed to leave with your head spinning and your entire calendar year overflowing with ideas for new projects, initiatives, and strategies. However, take a deep breath; odds are you will not be able to redesign your website, get your partners to adapt to a new sales culture, and quadruple your firm’s revenue within your first week home. Organize your thoughts after each session, make a list of priorities and realistic goals, and then follow through. Having a couple successful and well-executed initiatives is much better than a dozen, haphazard attempts. Your partners will recognize your success and respect your thoroughness.
There will be no experience quite the same as your first AAM Summit. It is a rite of passage that will open the door to long-lasting relationships, empowerment, success, and perhaps most importantly, give you the inspiration to build a stronger career and create something worthy of an AAM-MAA.