Do conferences work or are they just an expensive day off?
Can a webinar work just as well as a bums on seats conference?
What do you get out of a conference?
In this day and age, conferences might seem old hat. With so many information-sharing alternatives, webinars, video sharing and blog posting, you might be wondering whether that old fashioned physical conference is really worth attending.
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The fact is that whilst online options are certainly convenient, a good old people-present conference is going to be better for you. This is easily seen by the fact that despite there being so many online options (which are undoubtedly cheaper both to hold and attend), the old fashioned conference has far from disappeared. In fact, the conference market is booming. Why then is attending a conference going to work for you?
Learn, Learn, Learn
The first and most obvious reason that a conference is going to work for you is simply that you’re going to be learning. It’s the goal of every conference, whether online or in person to impart knowledge to large groups of people, and presuming you’re not a world expert in whatever the subject matter is (and if you are, you should be holding rather than attending the conference) you’re going to come out with a fair amount of new knowledge. This of course isn’t unique to physical conferences, but how much you learn is, as you’ll see . . .
How You Learn
Learning is all very well and good, but if you’re paying good money to get some new-found wisdom, you’re going to want to pack as much information into your brain as possible and to really take advantage of this opportunity. That’s where conferences really come into their own.
Unlike online alternatives a conference gives you the opportunity to do, rather than just being told. Remember, this isn’t a seminar, you’re not just being lectured at, a conference will almost always involve some sort of participation, whether that’s role playing, discussion or even more physical demonstrations.
The reason that this is important to you is that you’ll simply learn more this way. It’s a case of learning better through experience and participation rather than through being told. This is something that every teacher knows: a student will remember something they do better than something they hear.
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Connections are Everything
Yes, imparting knowledge is a major goal of a conference, but it’s so much more than that. Getting face time with experts in your field is of invaluable importance, as is spending time with colleagues. Whilst going to talks and demonstrations is very worthwhile, so is having the opportunity to make connections with people who may prove valuable to you in the future; it may be your conference host, but it may also be the guy sitting next to you.
Think of it this way: you need a plumber, are you more likely to start Googling plumbers, or to remember that guy that you met at your high school reunion last month who was a plumber? Conferences work this way, putting a face to a name and a level of expertise to that face means that you’re more likely to drum up business, or simply to meet the guy who will be the other side of your coin, the one who has the necessary skills that you lack to make your business succeed.
Why Conferences Work
This combination of learning through experience, mingling with those who have the same interests as you and getting information from experts in your field is very much unique to physical conferences, and is why they work so well and are far from going out of fashion.
You can top this winning combination off with the fact that you’re being taken out of your usual environment. Being put into a new environment is going to encourage learning, there are fewer distractions, you are more alert and attentive when you are in new surroundings. Something as simple as a coffee break could be instrumental in your success at a conference, an off-hand comment from a colleague could be all it takes to take your business to the next level, and that’s something that you can’t get outside of a physical conference.
Conferences work, if they didn’t, why would organisers spend thousands and attendees pay hundreds to get conferences up and running? Is it worth your time and money to head to a trade conference? Absolutely. You need to spend money to make money, and in the case of conferences you can be assured that you are spending on something that’s really going to work.
What is your own conference experience?
Did you benefit from attending?
Did your company benefit?
Please use the comment box below to add your own conference experience.