The Top 5 Learning Experiences at Project Challenge

Conferences and exhibitions are great places to take time away from your desk and concentrate on a little learning and development for yourself. So making the most of your day away from the office when visiting an exhibition or conference takes more effort than just showing up. After all, time is precious in the project management world and even though an exhibition or conference is ‘free’, we know that time = money. So if you are planning on visiting Project Challenge this autumn we want you to get the most out of your day.

Here are the top five learning experiences you can take away from a show like Project Challenge and all it needs is a little preparation beforehand:

1. Get the presentation guide weeks before the show

The Project Challenge exhibition has free presentations across different zones. Case studies, masterclasses, learning & development and solutions. All the presentations for the show are listed well in advance of the show itself so you have plenty of time to work out which presentations you are interested in, which ones are going to conflict, where your spare time is for other show activities and of course time to grab a coffee. There is no need to book which presentations, you just turn up (get there 10 minutes before the start for a good seat) and listen.

2. Arrange to talk to the speakers beforehand

If there is a particular hot topic for you at the moment and you have already earmarked a certain presentation, you will get additional benefit from speaking to presenter afterwards. This is an opportunity to talk to a leader in their field, someone who you could pick their brains for a few minutes, giving further insight and advice. Rather than join the queue at the end of the presentation, why not book some time with them in advance? As someone who regularly speaks at Project Challenge, I’ve found that anyone who offers to buy the coffee an hour after the presentation gets my full attention 🙂

Find the speaker’s details through the show guide, connect to them via Linkedin and make that appointment.

3. Prepare some questions

There are lots of learning opportunities through the exhibition stands too. Exhibitions are not just about selling; it’s also about conversations with people who know their subject inside and out. As a previous exhibitor I really welcome the conversations with people visiting the stands because so much unexpectedly comes out of them. Take the Spring show, earlier this year, we decided to share the questions visitors were asking us about. Not only did this pique interest from other visitors throughout the 2 day show, it also helped them really think about their own pressing concerns.

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Take a look at the list of exhibitors before the show and visit their websites to find out more about what they do. If an organisation is exhibiting a project management software solution, this is a great opportunity to ask about trends around project planning, resource management or project collaboration. A training company can talk about the advantages of one qualification over the next one; a consulting organisation can talk to you about pressing client requirements and what’s hot at the moment; a recruitment company can talk about career paths and how to stand out in a crowd. Whatever their specialist product or service is about, asking great questions helps you to tap into their expert knowledge and take that learning away.

4. Arrange to meet your Linkedin contacts

Exhibitions like Project Challenge are a great place to meet up with ex-colleagues, current colleagues, people you’ve met at other conferences and of course your online network. The learning experiences don’t just come from the exhibitors and presentations, they also come through the conversations you’ll have that you never normally make the time to do. This is an ideal time to ask that person on Linkedin who you’ve been conversing online with to meet up in person, in a purpose build setting in Central London. Do it, you’ll be surprised how much more you’ll get out of the day.

5. Chat to peers in the coffee area

One thing I’ve noticed through the years of exhibiting at Project Challenge is the lack of conversation that happens in the coffee area. There are loads of people who arrive by themselves, grab a coffee, read the programme and completely miss the opportunity to add someone new to your network. Don’t sit by yourself, pull up a chair and ask what they’re interesting in seeing at the show. You’ll gain an insight into another organisation; how they manage projects; what their challenges are – all opportunities to add a little learning to your own experiences.


Take a look at the show presentations and current list of exhibitors and start planning your learning day out of the office.