Like many other financial blogger types, I just returned from FinCon. I attend two or three conferences each year (FinCon is my favorite) because I find these events valuable. And not just because I sometimes party like I’m in college again.
Conferences can be great places to improve your career, as well as grow as a person. There are 4 main reasons that I attend conferences:
One of the best reasons to attend any conference is for the networking opportunities. You have the chance to meet new people, and these are people that might be able to help you with your career. The people who attend conferences are people who might be able to give you the inside track on a new job, or help you with a project you are working on. I met my current business partner by networking at a conference.
Whether you are looking for new connections, hoping to start a new side project, or whether you are hoping to establish a strong business relationship, networking at conferences can be beneficial to you and your career. And don’t forget to network with people you already know. You want to maintain — and deepen — the ties you already have, as well as forge new ties.
2. Learn New Things
Many professional conferences offer helpful sessions where you can learn useful skills and information. I always learn something new when I attend a conference. This year, I purposely attended sessions in a track that I wasn’t very knowledgeable about. I wanted to learn about the other side of what I do, in order to gain better insight into how my business partner does things. I certainly don’t want to replace him; I like that he does what he does. However, understanding it a little better will, hopefully, make me a better partner for him.
I also learn new things from talking to people outside of sessions. Some of the most valuable learning takes place during those impromptu conversations in the hallways. Pay attention when others are talking — whether it’s a keynote or whether you are having dinner — and you might be surprised at what you can learn.
3. Get Out of My Comfort Zone
I tend toward introversion, and I’m a bit ADD. That’s a fun mix when it comes to social interactions. Basically, it’s difficult for me to get out there and interact with others. However, attending conferences forces me out of my comfort zone. It’s good to stretch yourself on occasion, and challenge yourself. When I go to a conference, I do my best to stretch myself. I do things like ask strangers if I can join them for lunch, and I get up and sing karaoke — even though I feel really uncomfortable doing these things. I’m always glad when I do these things, though. It helps me develop a little bit as a person and, I hope, helps me practice soft skills that can come in handy later.
4. It’s a Break from the “Normal”
Sometimes we all need breaks in our lives. Attending a conference can provide that break in your “normal” life. It’s kind of like a little vacation. It’s true that what I do ends up being a form of work, but it’s a different type of work than what I usually do. This year, I purposely arranged matters so that I wouldn’t have to write any articles while at FinCon. This was new for me, and it forced me to prioritize my workload a little better, as well as forced me to relax a bit.
Being able to relax at FinCon gave me the chance to enjoy myself a little more, and to soak it all in without worrying about deadlines and other pesky issues. A little vacation can also help you recharge your batteries, and return to your routine ready to be more productive overall. I can already see that working in my life.
I love going to conferences. It’s a chance to break up the routine, and sometimes even travel to a new place and do new things. Plus, I learn new things and develop relationships that go deeper than mere business.
Do you attend conferences? What do you get out of them?
Continuing education is a licensing requirement in my profession, so conferences and weekend workshops are a way of life for me. We just moved to Austin, TX from Los Angeles, and professional gatherings have proven invaluable for my husband and myself. He’s made a few sales because of conference connections, and I landed the job I most wanted through people I met at a training. Yesterday, I ran into a local colleague I had met years ago at a conference we both attended in another state! It isn’t easy for me to wear a name tag, volunteer to come up on stage and share our group’s answers to small-group questions, or in it’s myself to lunch with strangers, but I’m always glad I did!
My profession requires continuing education. 40 hours per year. So most of my conference time is used up being in the room with my so called competitor. I will say that when there is a trade show aspect to the I do have some networking success. It allows me to talk to venders.