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All About You: Make the most of your time in San Diego

Richard Hawk

EDITOR’S NOTE: Motivating employees to work safely is part of the safety professional’s job. But who motivates the motivator? In this monthly column, veteran safety pro and professional speaker Richard Hawk offers his entertaining brand of wisdom to inspire safety pros to perform at their best.

For the past 25 years or so, I’ve attended every Safety Congress & Expo the National Safety Council has hosted. The event has always been a highlight of my travels. I get to schmooze with fellow safety and health professionals and, whether as a speaker or attendee, I learn a lot. I’m always impressed by how well it’s organized, especially considering the size and complexity of the content and vendor list.

This year, I’m thrilled that the event is going to be in San Diego. It’s one of my favorite cities to visit. I’m hosting a Professional Development Seminar (#215) and presenting a Technical Session (#7). I’ll also be attending other events besides mine. Here’s what I do to get the most out of every Safety Congress & Expo. I hope these tips will help you do the same.

List what you want to accomplish

I usually do this while on the plane beforehand. Nothing formal, just a short list of what I want to get out of my visit. Some wishes are general and not work-related – “find at least two new restaurants that are an icon in the area” – while others can help my career, such as “learn about a new trend in personal protective equipment.”

After I register, I always spend time reading through all the material I get in my bag, including the vendor list. This gives me a good feel for what I want to learn and who I want to visit. Yes, as a professional speaker, I purposely check to see who else I know is giving a talk or providing training so I can visit them or just so I know they’re still in the business. I figure that because I’m here, I’d be remiss if I didn’t increase the value of my visit by scoping out what’s going on.

Hang out with the vendors

As a speaker and consultant, I don’t buy much equipment. But I still want to learn what’s out there. It helps me relate to my audiences and stay on top of what’s going on in the safety field. No doubt you want to know what’s on the cutting edge and what new trends are in your field.

That’s why the vendors are an awesome source of information. In addition to my speaking engagements, I’m working at a demolition site until December. So, this time at the event, I intend to see what’s out there that applies to demolition work. Whatever line of safety and health work you’re involved with, be sure to take advantage of all the amazing learning resources the expo provides.

Make new friends

Several people on my contact list are friends I’ve met at the Safety Congress & Expo. And because I write this column, I look forward to spending time with Safety+Health Editor Melissa Ruminski and the other members of the magazine staff.

One way to broaden your network is to meet people outside your group. Often, I see people staying with folks they already know well. Yes, that’s comfortable, but you’ll benefit from expanding your interactions to others. I make it a point to meet strangers as much as I can. One of my close friends and I met while we were sitting in the lobby of a hotel. I sat down next to him (on purpose) and engaged him in a conversation about the hotel. We’ve been friends now for more than 15 years!

Write about your experience

On the plane ride home, I write about my experience. Just a page or two about what happened, what I learned and sometimes what I’ll do different next year. It helps me realize how much the convention was worth my time and resources, and reinforces what I’ve learned.

It’s wonderful to see how much the safety field has advanced. I experience it regularly as a safety and health pro at the plants I work at and in my interactions with other safety pros, but there’s no place I realize it more than at the NSC Safety Congress & Expo.

This article represents the views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

Richard Hawk helps leaders inspire employees to care more about their safety and health so “nobody gets hurt.” He also has a long history of success getting safety leaders to increase their influence and make safety fun. For more than 35 years, Richard’s safety keynotes, training sessions, books and “Safety Stuff” e-zine have made a positive difference in the safety and health field. Learn more about how Richard can improve your employees’ safety performance at

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