By Ana Ćakić
Is going to a conference a smart investment in one’s professional development or is attendance at such an event just an unnecessary waste of resources (like time and money to start with)? This may easily be one of those questions with a million-dollar price tag attached to it, and no simple answer. One might argue that the usefulness of a conference largely depends on what an attendee chooses to do there, so its actual value is not that simple to measure.
The summits, conferences, and workshops, just like many other things in life, are nothing more (nor less) than what we make of them. They can be seen as valuable assets for everyone eager to learn and increase their expertise in a specific field, gain new experiences, and socialize with people from a similar line of work.
On the other hand, going to a conference can be a real nightmare for those who are not willing to break out of their comfort zone (also known as the comfortable and safe space behind the computer screen that doesn’t require too much social interaction with others). So, let’s tackle some of the key reasons why one should attend conferences when the opportunity presents itself and how to make the most of it.
From where we stand, we see each conference as a chance to learn from the leading experts in the industry and to connect with peers through meet-ups and networking events within the conference. Therefore, the best advice we have to offer is this: pick the next exciting industry event and go:
- Grow new ideas and boost your creativity
- Discover new tools and technologies
- Meet experts and industry peers
- Introduce yourself and your work to others
- Unlock future business opportunities
- Expand your field of interest
- Try out something new
- Renew your energy with like-minded individuals
- Enjoy yourself and have fun
- Share what you’ve learned
Fresh Ideas Rarely Fall from the Sky
Growing new ideas is not an easy task, especially if you are a highly profiled professional in a particular field. The continuous dealing with more or less similar challenges tends to narrow our view over the course of time. The repetitive processes and operations in any given framework may contribute to perfecting specific skill sets, but they also bring the risk of losing the big picture.
However, going to a conference and hearing from other experts what they do and how they approach specific problems may shake you up and give you a new boost of creativity. Finding a new perspective on old issues is always the best way to go. It may not be the safest path to take, but it’s certainly an exciting one!
Learn Something New at a Conference
Conferences are awesome places to find out about the latest achievements in your industry and learn new stuff step by step and in detail. There could be some new technology or technique that you were not aware of before or some brand new piece of equipment that could boost off your business.
Apart from a few big names and some of the freshest successful faces in your niche, every conference will offer some added value. There could be an expo floor where the gold and silver sponsors and other companies that support the event will have various tools and gadgets displayed on their booths or some specialized workshop or training you can attend for free. It’s always fantastic to get first-hand experience and be able to ask questions and get real-time answers about the given topic.
Don’t You Just Stand Still
Every conference is the perfect chance to meet experts and your industry peers that may help you with overcoming challenges and dilemmas. If you are too shy or restrained to ask questions during the sessions, you can always find a way to approach people you want to meet in a less formal atmosphere during the break or even at the conference bar or party. You will be amazed by how many of them are interested in what you do and willing to help.
Even if it’s just about grabbing the opportunity to take a selfie with someone you admire, do it! They might ask you a question and open a dialogue. You never know what might come out of it – you may gain some useful insights into the industry, maybe find your new business mentor or even a new business partner. Whatever happens, you’ll come out as a winner for sure!
Say “Hi” to the World
Surprisingly, even those people who seem super confident and extremely self-assured actually have their own doubts about their talents, abilities, and strengths. It’s perfectly fine not to feel like being at the top of the game all the time. But, that doesn’t mean you should hide from the crowd. On the contrary – introducing yourself and your work to the people you’ve never met before may only increase your chances of becoming a better version of yourself!
There is no better training ground for stepping out and saying “Hi” to the world than the industry conferences. You already have more than a few things in common with most of the attendees. You definitely share similar if not the same interests, compatible aspirations, and valuable experiences worth learning about.
Pitch Your (Business) Idea to Industry Experts
Conferences are undoubtedly the best places where you can simply cut to the chase and talk to people without looking (nor feeling) awkward. Talking and sharing is why people gather there to start with, so don’t waste such an opportunity.
If you have a business idea that is directly or indirectly related to the conference topic(s), you may want to test it by pitching it to people around you and asking them what they think about it. In case you feel worried someone might “borrow” your original concept, try to come up with a story that you are comfortable with sharing, and see how people react to it. Once you gain more trust in people, you could try and open up a bit – maybe someone will actually get hooked on your idea and offer real and concrete help.
Keep Broadening Your Horizons
There’s nothing wrong with being an amazingly skillful, highly specialized professional who knows how to do their job better than others. Moreover, a lot of companies and business owners sincerely appreciate having such individuals on their staff. These people simply get the job done, and that’s what matters in business, right? We wonder, is that enough?
We strongly believe in the importance of broadening the horizons and expanding the field of interest. That doesn’t necessarily mean taking a U-turn in your career, but rather leaving your open door for new experiences, new approaches, new insights – the new and improved version of yourself. Inspiring conference speakers can really initiate that change within you.
Do Something Different
Attending a conference is an excellent opportunity to get out of your daily routine and try out something you’ve never done before. Most professional events have a little gap in the schedule that allows people to sneak out of the venue and do something different. Use that and go to a museum, for example, even if that’s not your thing. Take a walk and explore the local area, or be even more adventurer – book a visit to the tallest building in the city and face your fear of heights! Why not?
Doing things for the first time is probably the best thing you can do for yourself. It’s a kind of experience that has an important impact on many levels – it boosts self-confidence, induces self-esteem, and gives such a powerful spiritual uplift.
Power-Up Your Enthusiasm with Conference Peers
People who are ready to take some time away from their regular job to learn something new are the new best friends to anyone who wants to get to the next level in their lives both personally and professionally. Conferences gather such people.
The energy of like-minded individuals working together towards the same or similar goals is a mighty force, and you may want to use it to grow your own potentials. The exchange that happens at conferences has the power to renew your strength and restore enthusiasm. Even if nothing concrete happens there, the intangible benefits will be visible in the long-term.
Get the Party Started
In addition to gaining new information about the latest achievements in the field of professional interest and hardcore networking, conferences can be quite beneficial in other ways as well. They can be a whole lot of fun!
Almost every conference out there in the world ends with a party. Don’t skip it. No matter how tired you might feel after two days of sessions and workshops, make an effort, and go party with your peers. Take advantage of the informal atmosphere and chat with people in a more casual way. Sometimes even the small talks can open the door to big opportunities and quality conversations. Give it a try.
Conference Follow Up: Sharing is Caring
Once you get back from an exciting conference, all empowered and motivated, try to hold on to that feeling for as long as you can and share it with others. Take a lunch break with your colleagues and tell them all about it – share your new discoveries, inform them about what you’ve found out about the latest breakthroughs in your industry, offer your insights and fresh ideas, and continue to network within your organization.
The more you share, the more you’ll get back.
Giving back to the community is one of our guiding principles, and that’s why we never miss an opportunity to visit a conference, and whenever possible, take an active part in it.
Therefore, if you find yourself in Skopje this fall or perhaps Lisbon for the next Web Summit, give us a buzz – we’d be happy to meet you there.
Cover photo credits: Konverzija.org