I’m in a lull between conferences at the moment. Last week, I was in Arlington (Virginia) for the Academy of Human Resource Development conference, and next week, I’m headed to Orlando (Florida) for the E-Learning Guild’s Annual Gathering. I couldn’t be more appreciative of these opportunities; they are both great events.
Some folks are very suspicious about conference attendance. They seem to assume that the people who manage to get the budget and time to attend these kinds of events are really just finding an excuse to tour exotic locations. But for me, conferences are highly valued opportunities to connect with people who share my interests and my challenges. We all work so intensely day to day inside the confines of our own businesses that it’s easy to become isolated. Even though the internet enables outreach and collaboration beyond our own firewalls, there isn’t anything quite like being in the same room and engaging in robust exchanges with other professionals.
Frankly, conferences are exhausting. I listen to multiple presentations, engage in healthy debates, wrestle with new ideas, and plan for action post-conference. I’m up too late at night and awake too early in the morning. I don’t get enough fresh air and exercise (although sometimes running around a conference center counts). Sometimes, I even have the opportunity to share some of my own experiences in a conference presentation (I talked about the Learning Environment Design model at AHRD, and will be pairing with a colleague to share tips on building a corporate e-learning strategy next week).
But the rewards more than balance out the costs. Some of my most inspired ideas and most impactful recommendations have been borne out of conference participation. Conference conversations jump-start my thinking and fine-tune my approaches. I often come home with a new list of to-dos about sharing ideas with specific colleagues or trying out new tools and practice approaches in my own work. So I don’t take my conference trips for granted. They’re like condensed soup for the practitioner’s soul. If you see me at the Annual Gathering, please say hi – I’m sure we’d find something interesting to talk about.
BTW, all that said, I did tack a few days onto my upcoming trip so that I could spend time in Disneyworld. :-) I may be a conference geek, but I still love a warm vacation spot!