Just one of the articles from Pet Care Pro Quarterly, IBPSA’s digital magazine for pet care services professionals. Read the current issue online here.

When it’s so easy to learn and interact online now – webinars, podcasts, Facebook Live – has the importance of attending live and in-person professional conferences been rendered obsolete? You’re virtually keeping in touch with business colleagues and you’re busy, tired, and business is going pretty well as it is. Why even bother?

As the Fifth Annual IBPSA Pet Care Services Educational Conference & Trade Show in Jacksonville, Florida, approaches we propose that the above – plus a “half” – is precisely why you should bother.

1) We All Need a “Hug” – A 2015 study by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University examined the effects of perceived social support and the receipt of hugs on study participants who had been exposed to the common cold virus. Study results indicated those who perceived greater social support were less likely to come down with a cold. The “stress-buffering effects of hugging” explained some of the beneficial effect. For those who did catch a cold, if they felt greater social support and received more frequent hugs they experienced less severe symptoms. In short, social support helps ease the negative effects of stress. Even if not a literal hug (not all of us are huggers), conferences offer the in-person social support we all need to destress, recharge our batteries, and stay mentally healthy.

2) For a Fresh Perspective – Ever wonder why businesses hold meetings off-site? Why law firms have partner retreats? When you’ve got plenty of space at your business to meet what’s the purpose in going somewhere else? Isn’t it all some vacation boondoggle? Actually, no. Getting away from your usual surroundings to learn and consider your business offers an opportunity to get away from the distractions and be more fully engaged in what you’re learning. It gets you out of your rut so you’re not sitting in that chair again, looking at that wall again, drinking from that coffee mug again. It’s good to shake things up, shake away the dust and the cobwebs, and maybe see things with a fresh perspective.

3) Meet Industry Experts and Influencers – Conferences are unique opportunities to not only hear from experts but, often, to meet them and ask them questions. Conferences also attract industry leaders and influencers who, while they may not be speaking, they may be sitting in the chair next to you, probably happy to chat and even learn from you. Pro tip: A great time to reach out and chat with others is during lunch or breaks. Take advantage of the time to reconnect and catch up with industry colleagues. What speakers and sessions are they most excited about?  You may learn something from them in what they’re doing and where they’re going. Take the opportunity to discuss sessions you’ve both attended. Relaxed evening get-togethers are also a great time to pick brains.

4) Real People, Real Time – Conferences with associated trade shows are the perfect time to meet new vendors. Meet the actual people behind a product you’re thinking about putting your trust and money in, not just a voice on the phone or a photo in an email sig file. Take the opportunity for in-person, hands-on demos. Ask questions and get answers. On the spot. Pro tip: Look to see who will be exhibiting ahead of time and plot out what vendors you want to see. Conference websites such as petcareconference.com feature all participating vendors to help you decide. Reach out to vendors you’re interested in before the conference. Doing so may prompt them to bring a product you’re specifically interested in or spark an idea to bring another one they might not normally bring.

5) Showing You Mean Business – A big benefit of sharing knowledge you gained at a conference is that your colleagues and staff back at home base know that the information and business ideas that you’re now sharing with them comes from experts and other pet care businesses which helps keep minds open to embracing changes. Others can feel your recharged enthusiasm and your excitement about what you’ve brought back to share with them. That fresh perspective helps others feel like they were part of the educational experience. Pro tip: After returning from a conference, take the opportunity to immediately meet with staff to discuss what you’ve learned while it’s fresh in your mind and you’re motivated to make positive changes – before you can fall back into your old routines again.

5 ½) For the Whole Reason – And what about that remaining “half” reason? Maybe it’s to try that local seafood shack you saw on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. Maybe it’s that short drive to St. Augustine from the conference venue so you can say you’ve visited the oldest city in the United States. Maybe it’s just because you wanted to stick your toes in the sand. Whatever your half reason it should be a reminder that the whole reason you do what you do is because you’re doing what you love.

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