How do you keep up with what’s happening in your industry?
How can you add depth to your knowledge and job performance?
When you change jobs (or even careers) how do you find out about your new professional context?
In my experience, you can’t beat a good conference.
It doesn’t need to be closely related to your work; sometimes it’s useful to look more broadly for ideas and influences. Whether you are an introvert (like me) or an extrovert, getting away from your desk and spending a few days with a crowd of passionate, excited professionals can be a tremendously valuable experience.
Let’s explore the five best reasons for adding a conference to your professional development plan this year.
Most conferences offer plenary sessions where the entire audience listens to a keynote speaker or panel of experts. Plenary sessions generally address the big issues and trends that affect your industry sector.
By understanding the broader context, you will get a new perspective on what’s happening in your organisation and how it affects your own work.
Workshops, presentations and other concurrent sessions are usually led by practitioners – your professional peers – who share their hands-on experience with a smaller group of conference delegates.
In concurrent sessions you can learn specific skills that will improve your own performance. Reading an article or blog, or watching a TED video, is fine; being able to ask questions and explore ideas more deeply in conversation with the presenter is a more powerful way of learning.
The challenges facing your organisation and your team are not unique. At a conference you will hear about how others have tackled those challenges: what worked and – even more valuable – what didn’t work, and why.
You can use the Q&A period to explore the topic further, or meet informally with the presenter during a break. Back at work your new insights will help your team to focus on tactics and ideas that are more likely to succeed.
Attending a conference is a great way to expand your professional network. I’m not talking about social interaction here – although you can find plenty of that at a conference.
The people you meet at conferences could be potential new staff, collaboration partners or mentors; sometimes they can connect you with interesting projects or business opportunities.
You don’t need to be an extravert to get the networking benefits. The conference environment automatically gives you two easy ways to start a conversation with anybody: ask about the other person’s job; or offer a comment about the session you’ve just attended (or are about to attend).
5. Add ‘conference presenter’ to your CV
Making yourself and your work visible to a broader audience opens up new possibilities. When you are visible, people want to connect with you. Those new connections can help you thrive in your current role, get a promotion or perhaps even find a new job.
Becoming a conference presenter enables you to:
- Share your experience and insights with peers from other organisations
- Demonstrate your expertise in your professional field
- Test your ideas and get feedback from a knowledgeable audience
- Meet people who are interested in your professional field and specifically in your own work
- Practise your writing, editing and face-to-face communication skills
Being able to design and deliver an effective presentation is an essential skill for the 21st century workplace. Doing it at a conference takes your professional capability to a whole new level.
A well-designed conference will expose you to new perspectives, insights, practical skills, and business connections. A top-notch conference can also boost your motivation and sense of purpose.
Here are some tips for asking your boss to support you.