WBENC National Conference & Business Fair Reflections from Experienced Attendees as Interpreted by a Conference Neophyte

WBENC National Conference & Business Fair Reflections from Experienced Attendees as Interpreted by a Conference Neophyte

 ORV-WBC WBENC National Conference & Business Fair Advisory Panelists Cheryl Von Bargen, Shelly Heller, and Mark Kuns

ORV-WBC WBENC National Conference & Business Fair Advisory Panelists Cheryl Von Bargen, Shelly Heller, and Mark Kuns

I am a multi-year veteran of WBENC‘s Catch the Wave conference.  I have attended Catch the Wave in multiple roles including:

·         Non-certified Attendee 

·         Sponsor and Exhibitor

·         Seasoned Attendee

Having never attended either Summit and Salute or the National Conference, I was eager to get the perspective from a panel of experienced conference attendees during today’s quarterly ORV-WBC luncheon.

Here is a summary of insights shared:

WBENC National Conference & Business Fair — Benefits of Attending

National provides access to:

·         Corporate decision-makers

·         Other WBENC certified business owners

·         Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers

Reverse leveraging provides the opportunity to:

·         Team with larger firms (including non-diverse firms) to provide more comprehensive service and product offerings for proposals  

WBENC National Conference & Business Fair — Preparation Tips

Register by the Early Bird deadline to ensure inclusion in the 1:1 MatchMaker database. Although registering by the Early Bird deadline does not guarantee that you will receive a one-on-one meeting with a corporation, government member, or prime supplier, it will give your firm exposure to decision-makers during the vetting process.

Do your homework prior to attending the conference.

·         Target 10-25 exhibitors that represent your key focus.

·         Engage in pre-conference marketing and outreach for targeted attendees.

o   This may include exhibitors, corporations, government members, Prime Suppliers, Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3 and other WBENC certified businesses with whom you would like to become better acquainted.

·         If your targets cut across industry sectors, consider developing a customized pitch and/or deck for each industry sector. (For example — one deck for financial institutions and one deck for manufacturing organizations.)

Actively seek to form new relationships and nurture existing relationships.

Companies like to do business with people they know, like, and trust.

Be generous.

Facilitate connecting other businesses that can utilize one another’s services.

Understand the time horizon of the relationships you are building.

Sometimes connections result in a quick business opportunity. Other times, it may take three or more years to get a key opportunity. Know that there is value in both scenarios. Invest in both immediate and long-term nurturing of opportunities.

Ask for a buddy.

Buddies can be assigned to first time WBENC National Conference & Business Fair attendees. This is an opportunity that is unique to ORV-WBC.

Don’t be shy.

If you would like to connect with someone, it is fine to ask them for their business card and to offer them your business card. That is why the conference exists — to facilitate making new connections and developing relationships.  

Understand the role of Supplier Diversity Professionals.

While they try to facilitate matching potential suppliers with corporate decision-makers, they are also gatekeepers. They will forward information about the most qualified and best prepared candidates to corporate decision-makers. Approach them with an informed perspective on their company, their industry, and the products or services that you offer that will benefit their company.

Ask corporations for information regarding their Prime, Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 suppliers.

Some corporations will help facilitate relationship building among various Tiers of suppliers. For companies that are too small to be a Prime supplier, doing business with all levels of suppliers is a good way to begin demonstrating capabilities for a corporation or industry.

Optimize your own business marketing materials.

Consider whether all of your materials represent a unified brand and focused messaging. Prior to attending the conference, make sure that your Capability Statement optimizes your experience and business offerings. Refresh, if necessary, your business website to make sure it engagingly conveys the core competencies of your business. Make sure your business cards are up-to-date with all relevant information.

Use video in the conference portal.

The conference portal now offers the opportunity to upload a video. Highlight the core competencies of your business and the personality of your brand by uploading a video to the portal.

Breaking bread at the conference.

Although actively seeking to share meals at conference events with people that you already know can be a comfort, consider whether meals might be a good opportunity to meet new people. (Although the panel of speakers said that experienced conference attendees would gladly invite first-time attendees to join them in meals, I personally prefer to sit with people I do not know as a way to develop new relationships.)

Brenda Elmore, Corporate Director, Procurement Excellence and Supplier Diversity at Alkermes, offered this perspective regarding how to engage with corporate supplier diversity managers:

Be creative, fierce and not afraid to push the norm. Find the champion who will fight for you. If you are invited into a meeting – be well prepared.
— Brenda Elmore, Corporate Director, Procurement and Supplier Diversity at Alkermes
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