Who has time to attend conferences? Aren’t most of us so busy at work that we truly can’t afford a day (or more) off—even if it is for professional development?
The answer to that question should be a resounding no! Not that we aren’t busy, but we should never be too busy to take the time—to make the time—to attend external events.
Learn something new
When I attend conferences, I informally rate each session I attend on a letter grade system, and if I get one A+ (a “wow” session) out of a two-day conference and at least a few B's and B+'s, then I feel that my time and money has been well-spent—that I have learned something new.
Validate your understanding of ideas and concepts
Conferences also allow us to validate our understanding of ideas and concepts that we may not have applied in a while or that we thought we understood, but weren’t quite sure about.
Meet new people
Attending conferences also provides us the opportunity to meet new people, learn about different organizations and how they are applying concepts and techniques, and hear about “best practices” in action. Additionally, we often get a chance to rekindle connections we’ve made at previous events. I have some colleagues that I see only once a year at a particular event that we all have become accustomed to attending.
Rejuvenate your interest in your work
Another important aspect of conference attendance is the chance to clear our minds, focus on something other than our daily, operational responsibilities, and absorb the energy around us—to rejuvenate ourselves and our interest in our work.
Yes, conference attendance can be expensive and time-consuming, but it is also fulfilling.
Webinars and online meetings
Today, we have a number of new options for “conference” attendance in the form of webinars and online meetings, and that means we don’t have to incur the costs of travel and accommodation or multi-day conference fees to reap the benefits of the event. While these don’t provide all of the benefits of an in-person event, they do provide many of the above opportunities.
So, when you’re planning your next few months of commitments, look for at least one conference that you can attend, and plan to be enriched!