Conference. Congress. Convention. Summit. What do these words all have in common? Well for one, none of them are particularly ‘sexy’, but more importantly, they all represent an opportunity to learn.
Attending a conference in your field can broaden your network, promote deeper understanding, uncover new learnings and reinforce existing best practices. Done well they can also be a lot of fun. Done poorly...well you get the idea!
So, with conference season upon us (and our own Onboarding Summit right around the corner) we thought it timely to share our hit-list of '5 reasons to attend a conference in your field'.
1. Develop Your Network
85% of professionals believe that meeting in person builds stronger, more meaningful business relationships. So it goes without saying that large-scale events are the perfect opportunity to expand your network and find potential new leads, mentors, and collaborators.
It is important to remember that networking takes many forms, so don’t rely on planned sessions within the conference itself, go the extra mile. Arrive early, seek out ‘post-conference’ events, use the conference app (if they have one) to reach out directly to someone you find interesting, and be sure to have a healthy stack of stand-out business cards at your disposal, nobody wants to be fumbling around with a pen and paper!
2. Gain Targeted Knowledge
One of the great things about a conference is the wide array of forms in which knowledge is can be offered. Any great event will have at least a couple of different styles of presentations, and it’s a good idea to take advantage by attending a range. Here’s two that we love:
Workshops are a great option for someone who has existing knowledge in an area but is keen to learn more in an intimate setting. Usually, workshops are focussed on one specific issue, are run by experts and build on best practices, so the learnings are proven and targeted.
Panel Discussions are another fantastic form of targeted learning. The best panel discussions pull presenters together from different schools of thought, or who represent different stakeholders on a particular topic - think practitioner vs expert. You’ll be exposed to fresh ideas that can grow your knowledge base and inform new strategies.
3. Get Answers
Every conference session you attend is an opportunity to have your questions answered by experts. It’s also an opportunity that many attendees neglect. So come prepared and take advantage.
Map out your conference sessions in advance and brainstorm a few questions for each topic. Be sure to check out Conference Monkeys' guide to asking good conference questions for inspiration.
It may be that the presentation answers all your questions (brilliant!), but if not, you’re ready to pick the speaker's brains.
4. Be Inspired
According to the Harvard Business Review, ‘inspiration is the springboard for creativity’, but in every line of work, no matter how exciting, things can become stagnant.
Attending a conference is a brilliant way to promote inspiration by exposing yourself to fresh ideas, exciting projects and new people.
One way to maximize the inspiration factor is to attend a session that you would not normally attend, or that doesn’t directly relate to your field. Keep your eyes peeled for inspirational sessions and out of the box presentations.
Pro tip: these distinctly different sessions are often scheduled right after lunch, as conference organizers know that attendees tend to be less engaged straight after a meal and so need something extra-stimulating.
5. Have Fun
With the development of quality event-tech and the prioritization of experience-based activities, conference organizers have become adept at creating a truly enjoyable attendee journey.
Gone are the days of poor coffee and bad food. Banished are the lazy slide decks and shoddy lapel mics of yesteryear. A new era of espresso coffee, craft beer, high-end sound and lighting, and all-encompassing FUN has been ushered in.
So next time you see another event invite - think of it as an opportunity. An investment in your future and a chance to learn, grow and have fun with like-minded people.
You never know, you might just enjoy yourself!