Conferences, whether they are industry-specific trade shows, inspirational/motivational events, or learning opportunities around a specific topic– bring up mixed emotions for me. On the one hand, I think about spending a lot of money to travel to another city, spend time away from my family, eat crappy conference food…etc., etc. These are all things that make me think “Why would I want to go to a conference?”
Then I think about the times that I’ve actually gone to a conference. I think about all I learned and the contacts I made. And I have to admit: going to a conference is a great way to get an overview of what is happening in any industry right now. It’s an unmatched opportunity to meet new people and learn from them. And it busts you and me out of our day-to-day routine.
1. Bust out of your routine
There is a grind that you get stuck in, doing your thing, right? You go away to a conference, and it opens your mind up to all kinds of possibilities. That’s because you can see the world differently when you’re not at your desk answering emails and doing your ‘thing’. Instead, not only do you get a fresh perspective but you are being stimulated in so many other ways as well. Whether you are meeting new people or re-connecting with folks you already know, or you’re hearing about problems and solutions; or getting energized, and noticing what energizes everyone else–all these stimuli, including the change of scenery and routine, are working on your brain. You’ll find you discover space in your mind to create new opportunities and find better solutions to problems you’ve had in front of you for a while. Conferences, at the core, are creative spaces. All of that new information can really prime your brain for a breakthrough.
2. To recharge your battery
Not your phone battery (because it’ll be dead for most of the conference from all the tweeting, note-taking, and connecting), but your inner battery might be getting low. If you’re in a business, like I am, where you’re giving to people all day, and you’re giving, and you’re giving, and you give some more, and then you just keep giving… Pretty soon, there’s nothing left to give, right? Sometimes you just gotta put something back in.
A conference is a chance to do that, to invest in yourself. You can see some really inspiring speakers. You can hear from some really smart people. (Much smarter than me!) Because a conference takes everyone out of their routine, folks are more open and will receive you differently than they might at a networking event or even in a business meeting. People at a conference are just in the space of giving—a space of possibility. Conferences are giving places where you can bring your empty cup and get it filled.
3. Face-to-face beats online every time.
People that I’m “online” friends with–the ones I tweet back and forth with on Twitter or chat with on LinkedIn–are great. They are valuable contacts and can provide insight when I’m stuck or a referral to a resource I might need. But when I meet them face to face–when we both go to a conference, and we can break bread, or go out and have a drink, or we even just sit next to each other in a couple of sessions–well, that takes the relationship to a whole different level. If you never get out of your office, you miss that. You’re never going to get to that level with people. You actually need to be in front of somebody to get the most out of the relationship, even if you’re emailing all year long. A conference is a really efficient place to make online relationships more real. There are so many folks in one place; you can meet them all right there in three days!
4. Get smart.
You need some new ideas. You need to look at the world differently. To do that, you need to see a different world than the one you’re in every day. Because so many smart people share great ideas from different perspectives, you can’t help but see the world differently. When Seth Godin comes up and does his Seth Godin thing, it blows your freaking mind. Having our minds blown every once in a while is a good thing!
Yes, you can listen to podcasts and read blog posts. But after three days of sitting there, hearing all kinds of smart people over and over and over again–stuffing your mind full of amazing stuff–all of a sudden, a smart bomb goes off in your head. You start making connections, and that’s when the value gets created. Not by one idea or two but by all the ideas together. Conferences are a unique place to learn.
5. Conferences are concentrated awesomeness
Everything that we just said–breaking your routine, charging your battery, face-to-face connections with people that you’ve been meeting online, smart talks by brilliant people that stuff your brain to the point of overload, the spirit of openness and awesomeness all in one place, all in a short period of time–combines to make going to a conference a unique way to burst your business forward. (Or, at least, it will equip you to roll up your sleeves and head back to work with more focus and greater resolve!)
The only way to do it is to go. What conferences are you attending this year? Let us know so we can see you there!
Photo credit: zigazou76 (Flickr)
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