I spent two days in Olympia, WA (well, okay, actually it was in “Grand Mound,” WA) this week at the salmon recovery conference. It was held at Great Wolf Lodge which created an interesting dichotomy considering there was a conference being held in one part of the facility and there was a waterpark full of children in the other half, complete with Radio Disney being piped everywhere. Some of the conference goers did venture to the waterpark. In fact, one of them was spotted in a suit and flip flops.
I was thrilled to share a booth space with Leaping Frog Films. Cool movies, cool people. You can order their short educational movies online or hire them to make a movie for your organization. I didn’t give out much except a large postcard, on recycled paper of course, touting my GIS services, another postcard showing off my husband’s company Mapbiquity, and some custom pens. The pens were a big hit but their efficacy has yet to be determined. At any rate, it is fun to give away pens. Another company was giving away chapstick with their company name on them. That was a nice idea.
While there I met with a new client (who wasn’t part of the conference but happens to work very nearby) and it made me think about how important it is to listen, process, and be comfortable to ask the right questions. Sometimes this is just a matter of compatibility between people and sometimes it is a matter of the consultant needing to feel like they are on a peer-level with their clients or potential clients. If you don’t feel like you are on a peer-level you can sometimes promise too much or be hesitant to ask the “dumb”, but necessary, questions that an outsider needs to ask. Remember, the client is immersed in their business so they simply cannot tell everything a newbie needs to know about it and you will have to ask those questions. Never feel like those “easy” questions are too dumb to ask or you get into a lot of trouble (at worst) or do a lot of extra, unneeded, work (at best).
It was also wonderful to see all the folks from one of my oldest clients and hang out with them. I do most of my work remotely so it is nice to reconnect face-to-face every once in a while. I firmly believe it is worth it to make that effort with your far-flung clients. Maybe that is why I’ve had the pleasure to help them with their GIS work since 2003. Most importantly, I learned at the conference that there are a huge number of people who are working toward bettering salmonid habitat in the Pacific Northwest and they will be the ones who we can thank many years from now for having helped to bolster and protect that important natural, cultural, and culinary resource!