Career Coach: Conventional Wisdom

Karen Raugust looks at how Indian animation programs are teaming up with studios and software providers to expand the countrys workforce as its 3D industry grows.

A trade show, conference or festival takes place every month. The SIGGRAPH conference in Los Angeles, runs from July 31-Aug. 4, 2005. Trade shows and conventions provide an opportunity to meet prospective employers, learn about other companies, explore new technologies and skills, and meet industry leaders. Here are 10 points of conventional wisdom to help you get the most out of any trade show.

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raft a plan of action before the show. What do you want to get out of the convention, conference or trade show? What do you want to see? Who do you want to meet? What do you want to learn? Read all the material you receive prior to the show regarding seminars and events so you don't miss something important. Usually the pre-show mailer will include short bios of the speakers and descriptions of the sessions. Study the program guide and examine the exhibit list before you go and set your priorities. The more work you do before you go, the more you'll get out of the show when you get there. Review the special needs of your company or business before you go so you can keep an eye out for those products or services that can meet those needs.

SIGGRAPH and other shows have websites where they post their exhibitors with links to the exhibitors' websites. Find out as much as you can about the exhibitors before you go. Make a list of the exhibitors you are especially interested in seeing. Some shows send maps of the exhibit floor ahead of time. Use a highlighter to mark those exhibitors who are essential to see. Plan an efficient route so that you don't go over the same ground repeatedly. Create a daily schedule or itinerary including events, seminars and appointments. Remember, it is difficult and time consuming to meet other attendees at the show. Appointments should be with exhibitors or others who will be at a specific place.

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rganize. Order your tickets early. By registering before the show, you'll save time and you may get a discount as well. Order any special materials you need to bring. If you plan to job hunt at the convention, make plenty of copies of your résumé and other marketing materials and pack them in a separate bag and leave that by your front door so you don't forget it. Pack plenty of business cards or leave-behinds (at least 100). A leave-behind could include your name, phone number and email address as well as some samples of your work on a printed card. A few days before you leave, reconfirm your travel and hotel reservations to avoid last minute problems.

Arrange a specific time you will call the home office. A regularly scheduled call will allow those back home to collect your messages before you call and prepare their questions and concerns. This will help keep the calls short so you can get back to the show. Pack several large pre-addressed mailing envelopes to mail literature home. Bring your shipping account information as well. Bring a light empty bag or backpack to carry collected materials during the show. Pack a spiral bound notepad and extra pens to take notes during any courses or seminars.

If possible, arrive a day early to avoid jetlag and get rested before the show. Eat well and get a good night's rest. Wear comfortable shoes and clothes. Empty your purse and wallet of all non-essentials before you go to the show. Don't lug unneeded stuff around with you.

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ow that you are at the show, stay focused on the purpose of your attendance. Don't get distracted. If you came to see software demonstrations, don't spend time looking at irrelevant exhibits. Get a show directory. These often include contact information in them and can be a valuable resource after you get home. Don't take materials from exhibitors you have no interest in. Whatever you pick up you have to carry and it makes it harder to weed through your materials later. You can also order materials later. Collect the magazines when you leave.

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ow to use your time wisely. Use the precious time during the convention to meet new people, learn about a software tool that could help you do your job better or get some advice from an industry expert in a seminar or course. If you go with a friend, you can split up and get twice as much info as you could going together to the same seminars, exhibits or screenings. You can exchange notes at night or when you return home.

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schew distractions. It's easy to get sidetracked once you are on the show floor. Establish your priorities and stick to them. Stick to the list of the exhibitors you are especially interested in seeing. Eat a hearty breakfast so you don't have to take time out early in the day to eat when everyone else is. Bring a snack of fruit and a sports bottle to keep you going. Most shows have food but you may not want to stand in line. You can snack on the stuff you brought during a demo. Eat in the convention center during the day. You can try restaurants at night when most of the activities of the day are over.

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etwork whenever you get a chance. Whether you are standing in line to get your pass, or to go to a seminar or special event, or on the bus to and from the hotel, or if you see someone standing by himself or herself at a subway stop carrying a bag from the convention, you have opportunities to make connections. Strike up a conversation with those around you. Take advantage of this time. There aren't many occasions when you'll be able to meet people from all over the world interested in the same industry as you are. Familiarize yourself with the transportation routes to the hospitality suites prior to any appointment. Many shows have hospitality suites in the evening after the show. Network, don't party. These people are potential business associates. Be sure you remain sober and friendly. Don't stay up late you'll be ineffective the next day.

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ake a break from the floor every few hours. If you sit down to eat, sit near someone new. Network. Find out where other attendees are from and what they liked the most at the show. Exchange cards.

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nitiate job contacts. If you are job hunting, apply to the companies ahead of time if possible. Use the show to meet with those who have an interest in you. Post your résumé and attach samples of your work at the career center. This is a time when you should include artwork on your résumé or use colored paper to help it stand out. It will be vying with hundreds of others posted on bulletin boards so make it catch the eye of the viewer. Make sure your email is easy to find and easy to read. Put your contact info on the top of your résumé and not along the sides or bottom. Use a large enough type font so employers can read your contact information easily.

Provide plenty of copies of your résumé on plain paper to the career center so they can fulfill requests from employers. You can also post your business card and screen shots from your reel. If you make 100 copies you usually get a price break. Make copies ahead of time, as the business office at the convention center is usually busy and costly. Bring plenty of copies of your reel for both the career center and the job fair (August 2 and 3). Get to the job fair early and be sure to not only network with the employers but also with other job seekers as you stand in line. Check the list of employers who will be at the Career Fair online before you go and research the company so you can make a positive impression and stand out when you speak with the staff in the booth, even before they see your work. If you have an interview during the conference, be on time. Don't keep them waiting or they will move on to the next appointment.

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verall impressions should be recorded and shared. Organize all those business cards and other information you collected. Keep only what is of interest to you and toss the rest. Make notes of what you liked/didn't like about the show, anything you wish you did, but didn't get a chance to do. Record impressions of your hotel and restaurants with addresses and phone numbers and short reviews. This will help you when you attend the next trade show in that city. Go through the piles of information you gathered as soon as possible after the show. File the information you want to keep in a place where you can find it and recycle the rest of the materials. Ordering tapes of the speakers you missed can usually be done after the show.

Share the information you gathered at the convention with those who could not attend. Write a report summarizing the action items you think your company should consider or things that you learned which could benefit your company. Presenting your report to your company is a savvy move, making it likely you'll get to go again.

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otes make you notable. Record names, companies and any personal info of contacts you want to keep in touch with. Note the date and show where you met on the back of any business cards or flyers you receive. Enter contacts you want to keep in your database and follow up with a letter, email or phone call. Nice thank you notes following up any meetings you had will make you stand out from other attendees. Send notes as soon as you've recovered from your visit. If you have a long plane ride ahead, pack some note cards and get them done on the way home. You'll be sure to impress the recipient!

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson is a recruiter, career coach and management consultant. She speaks regularly at schools and industry meetings. She will be presenting "Résumés and Demo Reels: If Yours Aren't Working, Neither are You!" (course 22) on August 1 at SIGGRAPH 2005 and will be doing a repeat performance on August 3 as part of the educator's program.

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