Congratulations on taking the 1st step to bettering yourself as a fire service leader by registering for FRI! Now comes the critical part – making sure you make the most out of your time at FRI.
No matter if this is your 1st FRI or you’ve been attending for years, the fact is there’s so much to do and not enough time to do it all! FRI can be an invaluable experience if you take the time to plan your attendance, utilize your time at the program effectively and do follow up after the event.
Here are tips to enhance your FRI experience:
Prepping for FRI
- Download the FRI app. Go through it and get familiar with its features. It is a great asset to help you navigate FRI.
- Review the agenda and program of events. Select the sessions you want/need to attend. If you are attending with another member of your department, coordinate attending different sessions and sharing information. Mark everything to your calendar (there is one on the FRI app!).
- Contact friends and associates who are attending and make arrangements to meet up.
- Set aside time to visit the vendors/exhibits. Plan to visit companies with products your department will be purchasing in the next year. This is a great opportunity to do product comparison and meet representatives from companies you may be dealing with in the future. Remember to thank the vendors for coming. They help support the conference.
- Check your supply of business cards and place them where you won’t leave them behind. Bring dept. pins or challenge coins if available for exchange.
- Arrive on time for sessions. Take the opportunity to speak with presenters after sessions and get their contact information. Make sure you know out what is needed for CEU verification.
- If there’s a subject area/committee you are interested in, attend the meeting, introduce yourself to the chair and members, express interest in the area and stay for the meeting.
- Attend all FRI social and networking activities. Introduce yourself to at least 3–5 people you have never met before and get their cards. Later jot down on their cards something you discussed or follow up to your discussion.
- Don’t always stay with the group you come with. At scheduled meals sit with different groups.
- If there is someone of prominence you wish to meet, find someone to make the introduction. Almost everyone will be glad to meet you and it establishes the contact for future meetings, etc. Don’t hesitate to introduce yourself if there isn’t anyone to do that. Tell them if you want to be involved in something particular – write it on the back of the business card you give them.
- Don’t stay out late. The days are long and you need to get plenty of rest so you are energized and sharp during the day.
- In the evening, take time to review the day, organize the cards you received and any materials you picked up. Then plan for the next day.
- We all like to have fun at conferences and educational events but remember there are others watching, so make sure you well represent yourself, your department and the profession. Always remember that someone you meet or run into may be on an interview panel for you someday.
- Practice your “Executive Presence” at all times.
After you return home
- Organize all the cards you gathered and enter into your “contacts” with a note where you met them and anything important from the conversation. Follow up with sending any materials or information you promised someone.
- Make a list of people that you met and would like to have part of your professional network. Mark on your calendar to give them a follow-up call or email. Drop an email to the presenters you really enjoyed.
- Complete the post-event evaluation. Your feedback is important to presenters and to the IAFC.
- Write a thank you note for anyone who went out of their way for you at the conference or to whoever made your attendance possible. Thank you notes can make a lasting impression and are appreciated by the receiver.
- Meet with your boss (or whoever approved your travel) and review with them all you bring back to the department. Highlight how what you learned from the sessions and in talking with others can translate to more efficient operations. Address any issues that are current and emerging in your department.
- Share materials you bring back with members of your department who didn’t have the opportunity to attend.
- Schedule a training session with your work group/executive staff to share information you learned at the conference.
See you in Charlotte!