Why waste your day at a professional development conference?

Jul 15, 2014

Just over a month ago, I attended Social Media University—Milwaukee, held at Potawatomi Bingo Casino downtown. The conference ran from 8 am to 4 pm, with a networking event after. I was gone from a full day of “in office” work, plus the conference cost a chunk of change to attend. That seems like a steep price for something without a quantifiable justification. So, why did I attend?

No matter what industry you’re in, there’s always chances for professional development. Some take very little of your time and are virtually cost-free (like an online webinar with no registration fee), while others take a whole day and require a payment before you can register (like the Social Media University). I urge you, though, to get out and go to in-person conferences, seminars, workshops, etc. Pay the entrance fee, get out of the office and leave that pile of work on your desk to wait for Wednesday. Here’s why:

  1. Rejuvenate Your Passion. Feeling burnt out about the daily grind? Conferences are a great way to light your spark again. You’re learning from the experts, asking the questions you’ve been wondering, surrounded by peers who are just as interested in the topics as you are. Speaking of those peers…
  2. Networking. You either love it or you hate it. The thing with conferences, though, is that there’s room for both types. Even if you’re not the kind to chat up every table at the post-conference networking happy hour, you’re probably not a fan of awkward, silent lunches, either. Which means, you have to talk to someone. And there you have it! You’ve networked. For those of you who love to rub elbows, conferences are a heaven-on-earth. With most counting over 300 in attendance, even you won’t be able to talk to everybody. Take that as a challenge, if you want.
  3. Get Your Questions Answered. We briefly touched on this one already, but it’s so awesome that it deserves its own point. You don’t have to be the expert today—you can ask all the questions you want. And do it! It’ll make the conference that much more worthwhile if you can come away with specific insight into the issues that have been nagging you at work. Don’t just ask questions of the experts, either. Talk to your fellow attendees—what tips do they have? What trends have they noticed? Have they ever dealt with ______?
  4. If nothing else, there’s free lunch. And that almost makes up for the cost of the ticket, right?