Several weeks ago, I was invited to the Worldwide ERC® 2012 National Relocation Conference held in the picturesque River Walk area of downtown San Antonio, Texas. I was asked to be one of eight facilitators for an educational session entitled “Techniques and Resources for Estimating Move Costs.” This was to be my first time facilitating a session and my first time attending an ERC event, so I was eager to participate. Oh, and I can’t forget another first: representing Cartus at our booth where clients (both current and future), competitors, and suppliers all stopped by to see what we’re about.
In the weeks prior to the conference I spent several hours both on calls and doing research to help prepare the facilitator group for the session. I also took time to educate myself on the event, including how best to utilize this great opportunity. Imagine my surprise when I discovered an entire educational session devoted to only me: So This Is Your First Conference! How to Get the Most Out of Your Experience. I read through a comprehensive list of other educational session offerings – over 25 total – and made a schedule around those I found of interest. Many ran concurrently so I had to be a little picky when deciding where to spend my time, but there were plenty of good choices. At last May 9arrived and I took off for San Antonio. The adventure began… The session on how to get the most out of the conference was hugely beneficial. When you consider the overall size of the conference, scope of educational sessions, networking opportunities, and all the other mechanics of the conference, it helps to have a roadmap based on the experience of others. From that Wednesday evening through Friday afternoon I was well equipped to make the most of my attendance and was fortunate to hear some very well-prepared speakers.
My session on estimating move costs was Thursday afternoon, so I took a break from being educated and made time to be an educator. Have I mentioned that each facilitator for this session was asked to wear a cowboy hat? Now, I’m more or less from Texas but haven’t worn, much less owned, a cowboy hat since I was eight years old (and it was probably Halloween). However, no one was the wiser as I found a nice straw version at a nearby store early in the afternoon, so I was properly outfitted. We fit a lot of information into the hour but had time to work through two cost scenarios for the audience of primarily HR representatives with a sprinkling of suppliers, clients, and competitors. Participants were divided into eight tables and directed to work through each scenario as a team after being given a general overview of the challenges involved with cost estimates, i.e., impact to need for accuracy based on intended use (accrual vs. budgeting); time allowed to complete the estimate (we allowed 10 minutes per estimate); and availability of relevant relocation details (family size, locations, buying/ renting, etc.).
The overall lesson of the session was More = More. More time to complete the estimate + More relevant information being available = More accurate cost estimates. The feedback was very supportive and appreciative, both immediately following the session and in discussions as I ran across attendees on the convention booth floor.
All in all, it was a great experience, and included opportunities to interact with some great Cartus peers and create some valuable connections – both personal and professional. If you are invited to attend ERC, especially as a first-time attendee, remember that it is an opportunity to learn a lot—especially from guys in cowboy hats.