When it comes to attending conferences, employees in EH&S roles need to be keenly strategic about which ones they attend.
Most companies only have a limited budget, in terms of funds and expendable time that they can use to send their key staff to conferences. Most of the time, EH&S role-holders are deeply embedded in their roles, and more often than cannot spare the time to attend a conference or industry event that doesn’t deliver on key requirements. The pressures of the role mean that there has to be a firm set of “takeaways” that can be identified.
Here at ERA, we’ve attended more than our fair share of EH&S industry events. Our environmental staff have both attended, and presented, at a dizzying number of events across North America and beyond.
So what is it that professionals in the EH&S sphere actually want from these events? What distinguishes the real substance from the surface level shine? Below, we’ve put together a range of perspectives from individuals who have spent plenty of time on the “front line”.
What experiences have stuck with you? Once you have successfully justified your attendance at the event, what do you really want to come away with? Please feel free to leave comments at the bottom of the page reflecting your experiences.
1. "Give Me Directly Applicable Information"
Erin Manitou - EH&S Manager
There needs to be solid and demonstrable information provided in order to justify attending a conference.
If you get the solid impression that you will become more effective, through attending a conference, then you’re definitely onto something worthwhile
A lot of the time, EH&S professionals can’t afford the time to attend a conference purely “on spec”, with vague ideas of what they’re going to get and what we can employ. I could certainly end up acquiring more varied information, which I could find useful – but if you can tackle a real problem that I’ve been wrestling with, then you’re far more likely to get me to attend.
Similarly, if you have a niche area of particular interest that you’re looking to get answers on, or if there’s a particular niche issue that you know is being covered at an event, then that’s something that you know is going to be worthwhile.
If there is a tricky enforcement issue that you’ve been struggling with, and you see it’s being covered in detail at a certain event, then that becomes something you start to seriously consider.
This is especially the case if you know the conference has a good reputation for providing solid guidance. Sometimes, I’ve attended conferences where I’ve taken away a key piece of practical advice that can stick with you for years.
If you can identify something that you can make actual use of, in terms of your daily activities or buttressing an important task, then that is directly applicable and substantive information. It would be add considerably to drawing me to the event
2. "Keep Me on Top of Regulatory Trends"
Alex Chamberlain - EH&S Communications Officer
Regulatory compliance is at the heart of any EH&S operation. In that regard, it pays to keep your ear to the ground, and identify any changes or shifts that are underway. This will help keep you well-positioned should any sweeping changes come to pass.
I don’t think we need to point out that the new federal administration in the United States, and the associated plans for regulatory change, has grabbed the attention of the EH&S world. Whatever materializes over the lifetime of the administration will be closely assessed by EH&S role-holders, as new directives are handed out by the regulators.
In this regard, any event that features the appearance of an “in-the-know” individual associated with a body like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), or the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, will be of particular interest.
Understanding the way in which these large, bureaucratic organizations operate is key in developing a fully rounded understanding of EH&S environment of 2017. Any event that would offer insight from those that may be “in the know” would certainly be appealing to me, especially right now.
3. "Help Me Be More Efficient"
Hannah Sadeghi - Environmental Project Manager
As a project manager with ERA Environmental, I spend a lot of time communicating with EH&S managers, discussing best practices for compiling reports, dealing with data, and carrying out submissions.
Time is always the concern; we’re constantly trying to be as efficient as possible. The bottom line is that staff time is a commodity, we’re also very aware of the need to reduce costs while not compromising standards.
A conference that can outline practical ways in which we can reduce the amount of time and effort that needs to go into meeting EH&S needs is one I’d be highly interested in. Getting those kinds of lessons, be it from adopting better practices, getting an insight into the leanest reporting methods, or getting more out of existing state and federal resources, these are all things that would get me to actually sign up.
Ultimately, if I can pick up valuable tricks-of-the-trade, or get solid insights on how to cut out any aspect of over-reporting, then it’s something I’d be packing my bags for. Making me more efficient at my job is something that would be hard to say "no" to.
4. "Facilitate Me with Useful and Informative Networking"
Laura Weinkam - EH&S Manager
Here at ERA, we work with a substantial number of clients from a wide range of industries, and we get to strike up relationships with professionals from all over North America, and beyond.
I am continually impressed by the amount of knowledge and professional skill that exists amongst the EH&S community. Getting to speak and trade knowledge with individuals who are fully dedicated to on-the-job excellence is a real privilege, and I can’t count the amount of times I’ve gleaned a piece of really useful information just from falling into discussion with my peers across the industry.
I can also recall specific incidents where I’ve been able to find solutions to certain issues from consultation with those around me at industry events. Sometimes, there’s just no beating a good, old fashioned chat with like-minded individuals.
If I know that a conference or event is going to connect me with professionals that I can fruitfully connect and network with, it’s definitely going to be a draw. It helps to build a professional network and includes me in a web of experience and advice that can prove to be a great resource to have. It’s also a good opportunity to hear about new advances and developments that even the conference itself might not be covering.
5. "Supply a Good Location and Experience - Inspiration Will Follow"
Ed Kazemi - EH&S Project Manager
I’ve attended a number of EH&S events and what I’m struck by is that the experience of attending an event can prove useful in ways that are harder to quantify.
In traveling to an event, you can end up spending time with other employees from your organization, bouncing ideas around, spending together that can help you bond as a team, or collectively overcoming an issue you’ve all been struggling with.
In spending time at a good event location, you can extract a positive experience that can really stay with you. Traveling in general broadens the mind, but attending a well-organized conference in a quality location, can overall be a pretty relaxing and enriching experience. This is especially the case when there are good activities and local entertainment laid on.
We work hard in the EH&S sector, with the responsibilities of protecting health and safety standards, plus environmental management / reporting being heavy ones at times. It’s a rewarding experience to delve into the rich theory and practice of our industry in a relaxed yet dedicated environment. I think of it as an opportunity to back from the day to day routine, and really taking stock of the issues that are at hand.
Overall, the events I have attended have given me a better understanding of the industry as a whole, with all stakeholders coming together. You never know what might inspire you.
Bringing it All Together
All industry events differ, and all events have their own strengths and weaknesses. However, if you can identify an event that satisfies all of the above, you could well be on to a winner. The ideal event will balance raw and directly helpful information, with broader, more generally topics. A good conference will also make sure the practical factors, like accommodation and transport are relatively manageable.
It would be remiss of us not to point to the upcoming ERA Ingenuity at Work conference, set for Philadelphia, from September 18 – 20, 2017. Our annual conference, it will focus on risk aversion, sustainability, cost aversion, and how to get the absolute best out of ERA’s software while exploring the increasing vital importance of sustainability reporting.
We would humbly like to think we have covered all the points above (hopefully!), with a highly informative conference and packed schedule in place for attendees. ERA Ingenuity at Work puts our clients in touch with the real expertise behind the award-winning environmental and health & safety service we provide, covering every module we provide.
Over the three days of the conference, you’ll be able to meet both the friendly experts interviewed above, and attend highly applicable workshops, lectures and break away sessions. We will also be hosting a range of stimulating keynote speakers, from innovators like John Bradburn, Global Waste Reduction Manager at General Motors, to regulatory figures like Alyson Genovese of the GRI. We’ll also have a range of former EPA figures on hand to give their insight into the turbulence regulatory currents of 2017.
Register today for ERA Ingenuity at Work, and avail of a special early bird price. Simply click this link to learn more.
And please, don’t forget to write what motivates you to attend conferences in the comments below!