I’ve been thinking a little bit about conferences lately. It’s no secret that I love a good conference, unconference, meetup or tweetup. There’s just something about this social gal that enjoys meeting and greeting, dressing up, cruising the booths and drinking sponsored booze. But conferences are more than that. Having been part of organizing several myself and working with others who do so, I know the amount of work that goes into conferences (and unconferences). It’s a TON of work. In this day of full time connectivity, smart phones, online communities, microblogging, face time and Skype, why are we still so eager to pack a bag, jump on a plane, get a hotel room and spend 2, 3,4 days in social “go mode”?
Here are some reasons I came up with:
1) to hear from the speakers/presenters: big names keep people signing up for conferences, it’s no secret. Leaders in the field, successful practitioners and folks who have marquee value attract us to conferences, right?
2) to network with fellow attendees: find out what your cohorts (and sometimes competition in the marketplace) are up to. Keep tabs on industry trends comes less often from speakers (in my experience) and more often in the conversations you have walking the halls, at hotel bars after a day of sessions and sunning by the pool when one or more of you is playing hooky.
3) to load up on free swag: no doubt, conferences provide ample opportunity to grab any number of free kooshes, stress balls, pens and of course, replenish your coffee mug supply.
4) to get away: let’s be honest with ourselves. Sometimes the only way to get away from the hectic everyday office (or home office) doldrums is to head out to a conference. Whether it’s Orlando or Vegas, Copenhagen or London, we all need a little break. Sometimes, it’s so we can focus on things we’ve been meaning to get done for weeks. Other times it’s just to get a free vacation on the company card.
5) to learn from expo halls: one of the best ways to hear about new technology/products/services is to walk the expo hall. Call me an idealist but I assume that people come up with a new product or service, based on a hole in the market they’re trying to fill. Viewing the expo hall as a whole (after you’ve walked it) lets you make a mental map of where the holes in the market are (based on the new products and services being offered) and allows you to speculate about future trends, which is useful whether you’re corporate, a consultant or an entrepreneur.
What else? Why do you go to conferences?