Attending Professional Conferences and Other Professional Meetings
Written by Dr. Arron Grow, School of Applied Leadership
I realize I may be preaching to the choir here, but I’m going to preach anyway. Lately, I have had the opportunity to participate in several professional conferences and meetings; some close to home, some not so close, but regardless of where they’ve been held, I feel they are always worthwhile. Here are my top three reasons for encouraging participation in professional conferences.
Professional conferences wouldn’t be possible were it not for those who take the time to bring their ideas forward to share them with others. Sharing insights and ideas we each have with our fellow colleagues fosters exchanges of new thought, encourages individuals, and elevates professions. Conferences can help you to develop your ideas by allowing you to attend different presentations by experts in your field. Most often these presentations are cutting edge and give you access to ideas that haven’t even been published yet. It also allows you to discuss your ideas with professionals in your field and possibly the people that might be sitting on your dissertation or hiring committee. Which leads me to networking.
One of the most enjoyable reasons for attending professional conferences is to spend time with colleagues in the field. To be able to meet the people who wrote the textbooks is an amazing thing. It is also a chance to talk to other people in your field and learn from them inside information that you might not find in your current position, the inside track so to speak. In the business world today, professionals will often network with each other by email, sometimes by phone, only occasionally in person. That is what makes professional conferences so amazing. Meeting your colleagues face to face can move connections forward much faster than email or phone. I know this from personal experience.
Years ago, I was hired to help grow international operations for a multinational organization. At the time, the operations team was having trouble feeling ‘connected’ with offices in other countries. They weren’t getting answers to questions being sent out. After hearing of this, my first responses to the group were, where are their phone numbers? Let’s give them some calls. To get right to the punch line, I found that phone calls worked better than email messages and a few months later, I found that personal meetings were even more effective than phone calls. This is not new information – meeting face to face will always build relationships faster than email or phone. Sometimes, however, I think people forget this. So let this be a reminder:
- Get out of the office more.
- Attend conferences and other professional meetings whenever possible.
- Effective network building requires more than just starting a LinkedIn profile.
Now to the most obvious item; professional learning and sharing. A big part of attending a professional conference is being able to share your work and your ideas with your peers. I concede it can take time to fill out presentation proposal forms, prepare presentations, and then travel to and attend the conferences. I submit that all of this will be time well spent. I discovered a helpful tip when I was particularly busy with work. I received a conference opportunity, but I was worried about the time it might take to prepare for the event. Then I realized the value of sharing information that I was already sharing in other ways. Information that I shared in an online learning event a few months ago, could be expanded on and shared again at the conference. I realized that a seminar topic at one event on the West Coast could work as a table discussion topic at another event on the East Coast. The goal is to share information with your audience and get that information to as many people as possible. Sharing at multiple events also helps me to develop my ideas further and can lead to new publications.
The bottom line is this; the more time we invest becoming active in professional groups, the more we ourselves will learn, the more our networks will grow, and the more we will help others learn too. So the next time an opportunity crosses your desk, give it serious consideration. If it’s possible for you to participate, or at the very least attend, do it. The extra effort will always be worth the effort.