For some reason, I’m in a space of being a life-long learner. Previously, I focused on keeping up to date on your knowledge through reading (see previous blog post). This week’s tip is another way to keep abreast with what’s going on in your field…conferences! Conferences can be a fantastic way to learn. What’s more, they can be a lot of fun too!
Attending professional conferences within or outside your area of focus plays such a critical role in your continued learning. Typically these events showcase the latest research, case studies, products, and/or services in a particular field. So it’s perfect fertile ground to gather the latest and greatest information. And yes, even in this COVID environment, conferences are still happening (mainly virtually) and should be sought out.
Creating a Successful Conference Experience
Conferences also bring in some of the thought leaders in the field as keynote speakers, giving you the opportunity to hear from respected authorities in the space. Grabbing the conference agenda book to map out what you want to attend is a great way to organize your days at the event. Then, make it a point to network with other participants as well as presenters (which can certainly be done virtually as well). By doing so, you increase the potential for additional learning opportunities exponentially. For example, through subsequent conversations with a participant, you may gather information on how she is doing similar work at her company. Their approach may not be something you’ve heard of before and could test in your space. They could also become a great, objective sounding board to provide you with feedback prior to implementing something new in your organization. These are just two examples of how conference attendance is a valuable asset in your learning toolkit.
Why Attend Conferences Off the Beaten Path
While most leaders tend to focus on conferences related to their field, a pro tip is to go to conferences that are tangentially or analogously related to your field. Here you can tease out aspects that relate to your work that may be approaching similar work differently. Or, the conference may showcase completely different work that you can pull insights that may align with your area. Some of my most creative approaches came from considering how a different industry tackled an analogous or similar issue. So, don’t miss out on useful nuggets. If you are a leader in HR, take a look at a conference on project management or marketing to steal ways to solve problems differently. Trust me, you will come out with at least one useful insight if you look hard enough.
In the end, whether you’re attending a professional conference within your field or outside of it, conferences are a great opportunity to learn new information, network, and grow.
And I didn’t even discuss what happens when YOU are one of the presenters. I will save that for another post. Until then, get out there and register. Oh and be sure to ask your company if they will pay for all or some of the costs for your attendance. After all, when you get smarter, they win!
Take some time to locate a few conferences. When you find one to attend, bring a friend or colleague with you to the conference!