The Art of Conferences
Today we are featuring a post by a guest blogger and one of our fellow classmates, Chika Umeadi. Originally from Chicago, Chika is a Full-time MBA student who worked at an education non-profit in DC before he started the MBA program. With an interest in technology and innovation, Chika is pursuing a career in world domination/product management after graduation. Take it away, Chika!
My favorite part of flying is that I get to catch up on my personal reading list. My flight to Houston for the 35th annual National Black MBA Association Conference and Exposition presented a great opportunity to get books off my list, but instead I decided to re-read one of my favorite classics, The Art of War by Sun Tzu.
The Art of War, read by students at West Point, business professionals, and sports coaches alike, is one of the most influential books on military strategy ever written. Sun Tzu’s writings have seen practical use outside the battle field. Reflecting on my experience in Houston, many of his lessons from over two thousand years ago translate to having a successful conference experience.
Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.
One of Sun Tzu’s core tenants is preparation. Victorious warriors front load preparation and put in the effort ahead of the war which will ensure their success.
Large conferences require a great amount of planning to be successful. In Houston, smart conference attendees didn’t go looking for interviews, their interviews were scheduled long before they landed. Successful conference attendees had a target list of companies and had resumes tailored to each company. Proper preparation leads to winning (achieving your conference objectives) thus winning is a habit, not a onetime event.
If ignorant, both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril.
Sun Tzu suggests the need for a SWOT Analysis 2000+ years before Albert Humphrey develops the framework.
The first step toward success at a large conference is self-reflection. What are your motivators? What are your interests? What is your passion? A self-assessment will help bring your elevator pitch to life and make you stand out from the hundreds of students recruiters hear. On the other hand, it’s vital that you understand your target companies. There’s nothing that impresses a recruiter or partner more than intimate knowledge of their company. Combined, knowing yourself and your potential targets puts you in the best position for success.
In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.
In the chaos of the career expo and other conference events, there are several opportunities to make lasting bonds and connections. You never know where a conversation here and an introduction there can take you. Be sure to plan and do the necessary preparation for a conference but also understand that some of the best opportunities present themselves informally.
I had a blast at NBMBAA conference. I suggest everyone take the opportunity to experience a large conference sometime during their MBA education.