Conference season is upon us.
This year is already off to quick start with an array of high-impact learning conferences, such as ATD Tech Knowledge, Brandon Hall Group's HCM Excellence, and Learning Technologies in London. There are some real biggies coming up in March, where I'll be attending, and I know you'll find the Litmos crew exhibiting at the Bersin Impact Conference in early April as well as at the Granddaddy of all learning conferences, ATD International Conference and Expo, in May. This is just a mini-list and doesn't even begin to mention a variety of local learning and development summits and workshops.
In this crazy, busy world, it is easy to forget how important meeting with peers can be – we forget about the power of sharing and learning new information.
Being active in our industry brings with it many benefits. There is power in being connected to other people who are active in training, experiencing the same issues and feeling the same pain points, we are not alone! Knowing this, surprisingly, it can be easy to talk yourself out of committing to that annual conference year after year. Too busy, too expensive, I have too much WORK TO DO! This coupled with many people thinking that joining an organization is enough, but it’s not. In order to capitalize on your membership you need to be engaged and participate in everything your network has to offer. This includes attending a conference, summit, mastermind program…something!
I have spoken with many L&D professionals who believe conferences are a waste of time and money. They believe there isn’t anything new to learn. Between the conferences I listed above, there are over 700 sessions from which to choose. Sure, some of them might be redundant – but if you can’t find SOMETHING new to learn within 700 sessions…you aren’t trying hard enough, and you aren’t creating new opportunities to build your lifelong learning habit.
Key is knowing that the mindset you choose about participating in these learning events will impact your results and your overall experience.
Here are five reasons to run, not walk, to the next training conference:
Learning opportunities. No matter how experienced you are, or how long you have been in the industry, everyone can learn something new. As a matter of fact, we should be leading the charge and modeling behavior to encourage other people to deeply explore their own professional development. If you work in a small business or work in a small training department, one can feel isolated, and without exposure to a variety of points of view, we can miss new ideas and trends that can impact future results.
Networking with peers. Training-focused conferences provide a great opportunity to network. Some of my very best, in real life friends, were relationships started on Twitter and then taken to a new level during conferences. Our peers are valuable resources for referrals and best-practices. Collaboration is the way forward to bring new, fresh and innovative learning practices to our businesses. Saying that we don’t have time to network and meet new people is like not having time to put gas in our cars. Eventually, we will run out of gas, stall and become stagnate. Look to others to uncover ideas and spark inspiration.
Leverage the knowledge and expertise of vendors. Too often people shy away from the exhibit hall at training conferences. Yes, at times it may feel like a carnival event with people trying to draw you into their booths because they need your badge scanned to achieve a sales goal. However, a lot of times industry suppliers are some of the best people for you to get to know if you want to learn more about what is happening now (or what isn’t happening now). Roaming and exploring may help you discover trends, innovations, and a future-looking approach that just might take your learning culture up a notch.
Be the expert. When you are active in the learning community, you can develop a reputation as an expert to your peers and your business. You want to be a business partner, right? Well, professional development is part of the role. Businesses appreciate when their people are up-to-date on the latest technologies, and innovations. Especially with training. Be the person who comes up with the blended learning solution that drives business results. You won’t get there unless you get out of your office and go to a gathering of like people where you can find ideas that are a best fit for your organization.
It’s fun. Being a learning professional should be rewarding and fun. All work and no play can get old fast. Training conferences can add a layer of enjoyment to managing your career growth by mixing a social aspect into your learning. Training peeps are the most delightful, humorous and playful people I know. Take advantage of the spirit. Shake off the pressures of the work place and enjoy the moment. Most conferences have a special networking or meet-up night. Meet someone new! Laugh. Never underestimate the power of a little fun mixed with some interesting people!
Many people believe that since they can now access information via a plethora of internet hubs, that the days of live conferences are gone. The truth is, conferences are more important than ever. The value in conferences comes from the human connections that occur. Many people tell me the serendipitous “hallway conversations” they have with other attendees is the most valuable part of attending an event. Being an experienced conference attendee, I can attest this to be true. Many times, I start a conversation at lunch only to have it carry on through the afternoon. People sharing stories and best practices, sharing the different things they have learned. Enjoying each other’s company. It is the people who bring value to your conference experience.
I encourage you to budget in a conference, if not for this year, then next. Plan your time and plan the events you’ll be attending. Know what you want to learn, know who you want to meet, and know which vendors or suppliers can be of assistance. Time is finite, do your heart and mind a favor – attend a conference. Learn new things, meet new people. Don’t let this crazy world come between you and your next conference experience.