“Why do you attend NMX or the 2013 International CES”? I have been asked that many times, just as in years past. “Aren’t you a blogger? or don’t you work in healthcare?” were the follow up questions of the day.
After, why would someone who writes a blog need to meet other people or learn new things?
Yes, of course, I am a blogger who works in healthcare who attended a technology conference. Those things are not mutually exclusive, after all. Still, why do it?
Great Reasons to Attend Conferences
Many people who regularly (or irregularly) attend conferences, seminars, workshops or professional meetings have a multitude of reasons why they participate.
- In many seminars, when a speaker asks the audience why are you attending, invariably you will hear people answer because I need the continuing education credit or my boss made me come. They have no interest in the topic, the speaker or the people attending and usually pay no attention. They are biding their time waiting for the golden ticket certificate of attendance that gives them a free pass out the door. Fortunately, this is the exception not the rule. Obtaining CEUs is a necessary evil but one that hopefully is met through lifelong learning opportunities that improve a person’s level of practice knowledge or teach them an innovative way to serve their customers. I often attend seminars in my field to earn CE credits to maintain my professional credentials but always attend one that will benefit me in some way.
- Many people attend a conference to learn a new skill that will help them be more successful in their current job, obtain a promotion in their organization or to become more qualified in another career opportunity. Learning and growing professionally are very worthwhile reasons to attend and always a main priority for me in the conferences I choose to attend.
- Attending a conference with an expo attached is a great way to get your hands on new products, hold them, manipulate them, try them out, speak to manufacturer reps who have heard all the questions and usually have a great deal of inside knowledge on the product and especially to learn more about what value these new innovations can bring to your particular customer. Getting freebies and samples is pretty neat too!
- Having the opportunity to hear leaders, innovators and influencers in their field is a priceless experience. Over the years, I have had the pleasure to hear leaders such as John Scully, Vincent Cerf, and Matt Cutts just to name a few in the field of technology; Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Dr. Oz and Carolyn O’Neill in the field of health; writers Arianna Huffington and Deepak Choprah as well as several national presidents of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (my professional organization) just to name a few. While it is true that you will not likely attend a conference just to hear a great keynote speaker, their expertise and tips on innovation, working within the system, leading people and making improvements in the industry not only impart wisdom but inspire me to keep moving forward.
- For me, a great benefit of attending a conference is to meet people with whom I have connected through technology but have never actually met. Getting the opportunity to meet people that I contact via emails or social media presence and actually have a conversation not limited to 140 characters is incredible. Exchanging ideas, experiences and friendship is an invaluable way to strengthen your network. Don’t forget the ability to meet new people and new influencers in your field and to become an influencer for others. Attending a conference gives you innumerable avenues to meeting new people and forming a larger web of influence to build your professional and personal support network. Take every opportunity to introduce yourself and talk with others such as lunch conversation, riding on the shuttle, sitting in an all-day session, cocktail or dinner events, social media events/tweetchats, parties, and other related events. This is easy for some and extremely difficult for others but a skill that can be perfected with practice!
You Get Out of Conferences What You Put Into Them
I have learned throughout my career that I get out of every conference what I am willing to put into it. I pursue conferences that I feel will contribute to some part of my career. It may be directly related to an area of practice, it may be related to presentation skills, computer skills, writing skills, new products or something totally new that I want to investigate for the future. I always pay attention otherwise why go? I attend the sessions and take notes whether I ever read them again or not because just writing down key points will help me to remember them later.
CES gives me many opportunities in one, great informational sessions, more contacts than I could meet in five careers, insight into the innovations of today and tomorrow – – oh, and spending a few days in Las Vegas doesn’t hurt!
Preparing in advance for a conference will give you even more benefit. Next time we will review strategies on how to prepare for your next conference.