The short reason for attending conferences that may not be at my skill level: people. The slightly longer explanation – and a slideshow filled with people from the New Media Expo- is below.
A question I am asked a lot by peers is why I attend conferences and offline gatherings so much. When I told some work friends I was going to NMX, I heard everything from “conferences are rip-offs” to “why would you attend a conference you could speak at if you’re not speaking?” to “you’re just wasting your money”.
There were times I felt they weren’t too far off. The first five years of my current career in web content and marketing, I rarely went anywhere in person because I couldn’t. Not only couldn’t I afford to go, I physically could not be there for reasons I’ll bore you with on one of my own blogs.
So for the first several years, I had to survive without knowing any of the critical people in my career in person. It’s possible to succeed in a technology or web related career without going to conferences. And yes, if you don’t know how to get the most out of a conference, they could be a rip-off where you’re wasting your money.
This one wasn’t – it had its low moments, but was far from a waste of time or money. But those types of conferences do exist, though I’m a firm believer that you can get great benefits out of even a bad conference experience. Another article for another time.
Right now, I want to speak to the idea that New Media Expo’s time has come and gone, and that those of us who speak regularly or are advanced enough to teach topics at these conferences won’t learn anything new.
A very successful mentor of mine once told our group how much money she spent per year on learning materials at levels that were even basic to newbies. We were astonished – some of that didn’t make that in a year. She didn’t just tell us the common advice that you have to keep learning. She told us that it’s worth the time spent going back over things you already know from time to time to learn from a different source.
Her reason was that there’s always some small nugget of information or data that you’ve overlooked, or didn’t quite “get” the first time, that can completely transform the way you do business, or solve some problem you have, or put something into perspective.
Over the years, more and more of my successful mentors told me that and I started to listen. Just because I have been blogging since 2002, doesn’t mean I can’t learn something new from someone who started a decade later. It’s the height of arrogance and the start of ignorance to think you know everything, just because you’ve reached a high level of expertise.
To keep myself fresh, I not only attended a few workshops I could probably teach with my eyes closed, I also went to sessions in areas where I’m not an expert, to close gaps in my knowledge.
However, even if I hadn’t learned a single thing, the entire experience would have been worth it, to meet people. People teaching and on panels, people I socialized with, new peers and relationships that came as a result of networking.
If I’m being honest, I bought my ticket very early to be there in support of a friend who was speaking, and to see people I haven’t since Blog World 2010. Teaching. learning or socializing, the best part of a conference is being able to connect in person with other people.
You never know where that experience will take you in days or years to come.