What am I describing? Or have you already guessed?
Conferences, expos, and other industry meetups are crucial whatever your occupation. Whether big or small, in town or across the country, conferences are well worth attending as they are a great place to connect with others, learn about new trends, and motivate you to innovate in your industry.
In any business, connections are crucial. As the saying goes, “It’s all about who you know,” and it is true. Who you know and who they may know can make you or break you, especially if you are a small business. Small businesses cannot grow without a new influx of clients. Often that new source can be grown within your current clients’ circle, but ultimately a new source is necessary.
Conference connections are also very useful and necessary in order to keep up with others in your industry. Beyond just looking for new potential clients, fresh perspective and a regular inflow of industry-specific news is indispensable. Throughout the year, day-to-day, outside of conferences, receiving news targeted to your knowledge and practices is a great way to grow and learn.
Along with making connections, conferences are an excellent way to learn about new trends. Cutting edge industry trends are presented at conferences by people who are actively practicing them and often present how to utilize them. When trends are taught and discussed in this way, ideally, you gain a better understanding of the topic so as to take the knowledge back to your company and practice it yourself. If you keep up with the connections throughout the year, hopefully the topics presented will be recognizable and the presentations will give you a better understanding and working example of how they work.
The presentations given at conference are a great way to refresh your knowledge pool. On a day-to-day basis, you pull knowledge from your own experience, which will eventually leave you stagnant. Revitalizing your knowledge with new techniques and practices will allow you to personally grow in your company and industry and keep you from stagnating. While you can often get some of this knowledge from media sources, journals, newsletters, and other communicative means, conferences are a more in-depth, distractive-free, way to actively learn.
While in college, I was given the opportunity to attend the Front End Design Conference, where there was an extra day before the main conference to attend a workshop. These workshops allowed the presenters to display a concept and then conduct break-out projects with the attendees. While an added expense, the workshop was well worth ait in my opinion. The conference itself gave fresh insight on a variety of topics – some I had explored, a couple I wanted to try, and a couple I had not heard of. At the end, I walked away with several trends I wanted to test and utilize in upcoming projects.
After all of the connections and trends and the conference is over, you will hopefully be motivated to practice what you learned. Maybe you did feel stagnant at work, but after a conference you will feel refreshed and ready to use your new knowledge. You may also be motivated to enlighten your coworkers as well. A good conference will also motivate you to attend the conference again and other events in the meantime.
The Good, The Bad, and The Worth It
As with almost everything in life, there are going to be conferences you really learned something at, those that you never want to attend again, and those you want to attend year after year. Conferences are their own mini-companies with clients, like yourself. A great conference, like a great company, will have loyal followers and repeat clients.
A good conference will properly connect you with others, present you with good topics, and leave you feeling motivated. A good conference may be one that you consider attending every so often when it is in the budget, monetarily and timewise. You should be able to walk away from such conferences feeling accomplished and ready to explore a new method or two.
A bad conference, like every bad experience, will leave you desiring more. Maybe you were not able to make the right connections, or the topics were not what you expected, and you definitely feel like you wasted your time and money. Unfortunately, there are some events like this. Some conferences are not quite in your industry experience, while some conferences are a little too niche, and some conferences are just not correctly set up and maintained. For the niche conferences, make sure to do all your research and try to talk to past attendees similar to you. Maybe in your research you will find that a certain conference is not for you, but may be the perfect conference for one of your connections!
A “worth it” conference will be the one that you attend year-after-year. This is the conference with lasting connections, with solid presentations, and that leaves you feeling energized about returning to work to try out your new knowledge. This conference will leave you feeling like you have made the right purchase and are fully justified for taking off a day or two of work to attend. How do you distinguish the “worth it” conference? Research and attend. Throughout the year, look at the events your current connections are attending or where those that inspire you are speaking. After researching, there is nothing more you can do than to go to a few conferences and see which ones are most worth it to you.
What conferences do you attend? What experiences have you found most “worth it?”