What Execs Should Actually Be Doing at Conferences

There are at least 255 major convention centers in the U.S, and up to 40 million Americans attend business events every year. With all of this activity, and with upwards of $3B spent annually – or $657 per person per event on average – there must be good reasons for going. 

For Executives, who are constantly balancing priorities and making tradeoffs with their time, the reasons most often cited for attending conferences, according to a survey by GoodmanLantern are the following:

  • 69%: Networking opportunities with peers
  • 31%: Meet experts and industry leaders face-to-face
  • 21%: Investment in themselves and their careers


When asked how they measure effectiveness, the answers aren’t surprising: better relationships (41%), increased team capabilities (32%), and new sales leads (20%).

Sure, networking is important, and developing new relationships is great, but if these are your goals, then you’re missing the bigger picture.

We’re talking about one of just a few opportunities every year to be surrounded by your customers, partners, and vendors all in the same venue talking about their futures and announcing their next big things. You also have unlimited access to panels, presentations, and industry experts sharing best practices and making bold predictions. 

If all you take home  is some nice swag and a few LinkedIn connections, then you are failing as a leader.

Think bigger: The one objective you should have as an executive at a conference is to be inspired.

Turn a 72-hour investment of your time into an opportunity to create something spectacular:

  • Try a new technology
  • Enter a new market
  • Begin a new joint venture


Inspiration comes in many forms. Yours should come from something that you wouldn’t typically consider but has outsized upside potential. Some tips for finding your inspiration:

  1. Give yourself space to be inspired: Let your team handle the tactical stuff.  If it was already on the agenda, they can handle it
  2. Search out extreme success: Find the speakers, businesses, or technologies that have been incredibly successful, and go to their presentations and panels. It doesn’t matter if it’s a different industry. It doesn’t matter if their story isn’t relevant to your own. Success breeds inspiration. Remember that Apple’s inspiration for the retail store came from luxury brands like Tiffany & Co. and The Four Seasons, not other tech companies.
  3. Prioritize depth & intimacy: There’s just so much you can get from a 30-minute one-on-one or a 60-minute presentation with 300 other people. Inspiration comes from a connection and a belief, both of which require time and trust. Prioritize small group engagements, including breakouts and dinners, that allow for quality, honest discussion.
  4. Start small but commit:  Inspiration doesn’t mean betting the farm. Find the opportunities that allow you to pilot or the engagements that allow for a trial phase. It’s perfectly reasonable to start small, but commit to starting. 


The ROI on inspiration is pretty simple. You’re looking for low-probability outcomes with outsized returns:

2-3 events per year x 1-2 ideas per event = 3-6 inspirations per year

20% success rate = 1 transformational outcome per year

One transformational outcome every single year is massive! 

Don’t be afraid to fail. After all, nothing ventured – nothing gained.  You have plenty of interesting, 2-3x ROI projects on your to-do list already. The point of being around others is to find the one-off that has the potential for 10x or 100x. That’s the thrill of the hunt. 

Having just gotten back from Snowflake Summit 2023, this topic hits very close to home. 

A year ago, I attended Snowflake Summit 2022 with Elementum’s CEO, Nader Mikhail and VP of Product, Karen Jenkins. Not knowing what to expect going, we left the conference captivated by a few unmistakable truths:

  1. The move of enterprise data to the cloud was a full-on stampede
  2. Snowflake offered the most compelling Data Cloud in the industry
  3. Cloud-native architectures would present significant advantages for data-driven businesses 


Since the founding of the company, Elementum’s growth has been constrained by the availability of data. So, to envision a future state where data could be shared seamlessly, such that the data never moves, and without any integrations required was truly profound. For Elementum, that meant the ability to instantaneously automate business processes with Data Driven, AI-powered workflows. A true gamechanger for business process automation, service management, and the cloud application ecosystem more broadly.

We left inspired to completely rebuild Elementum’s platform to be cloud-native, to partner exclusively with Snowflake, and to build the first platform for data-driven, AI-powered workflows. 

Fast forward a year, and Elementum was featured on-stage at Snowflake Summit 2023, launched several joint applications with Snowflake, and held marquee events highlighting the power of Elementum’s cloud-native offerings.

Inspiration takes many forms –  but all inspiration starts in the same place: an open mindset with a commitment to action. Be inspired at your next conference, and see where it takes you!

Inspired by this post? I’d love to hear from you. Reply in the comments, or email me at To learn more about Elementum, you can also email

David Blonski

David Blonski

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