I tried to Google a statistic explaining approximately how many conferences happen annually in the U.S. and had absolutely no luck. While there was no clear answer to the question, what I did see was that there are more than I could have ever fathomed. Literally thousands of conferences happen across the U.S. annually, and that doesn’t even touch the tip of the iceberg with international conferences.
As a student and communications professional I’m tasked with making a new “un-conference conference” a sold-out landmark event in my hometown and industry. This paved the way for some great questions. With so many conferences to choose from, how do you get people to attend yours? More importantly, why do people even go to conferences to begin with?
Why You Must Make Time to Attend Conferences
In this day and age, time is a commodity and life is moving at the speed of light. With so many other things going on, why make time for a conference? If you need a reason (or four), you need not look any further.
If there were ever a magical place to meet people who share the same interests as you do, a professional conference would be that place. This is networking at its finest. Typically comprised of a wide variety of professionals from business owners to senior executives to emerging young professionals, conferences are a great way to connect with people you might not be able to otherwise. As they say, it’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know. Who knows who you could meet? Maybe you’ll find a new friend or mentor; maybe you’ll find your next client or boss; maybe you’ll meet someone who profoundly changes your life, or maybe you’ll meet someone who’s life you profoundly change. The opportunities are endless.
2. Self Help
In a past life, I worked in the world of human business champions and was fortunate enough to quasi-work with some of the world’s most well-known professional leadership gurus. Among those gurus was the famous Jim Kouzes, teacher, speaker, entrepreneur, author extraordinaire and beyond. He and his partner, Barry Posner, host the annual Leadership Challenge Forum where industry experts gather with participants in a several day seminar to inspire, engage and connect. A few years ago post conference, they ran a simple survey asking attendees, “Why do you come to these conferences?” They found – overwhelmingly – that the number one reason was self-help. People are curious and looking for that practical token of knowledge they can pick up, walk out the door with and apply in their lives and jobs. Whether a skill, best practice or emerging trend, this developmental learning aspect of conferences is most certainly a biggie.
The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities. – Steven Covey
3. Get Involved
Do you want to be part of writing the future of your industry? Get involved in the conversation. Conferences often provide a forum for just that. Through keynote presentations, workshops, interactive seminars, debates, think tanks and more, you personally have an opportunity to have an impact in your industry by actively participating in the conversation. Alongside industry leaders, what if you had the opportunity to create the trends as opposed to simply following them? Additionally, by getting involved in the conversation, you not only have a chance to impact your industry but also your community – especially if there is something they care about at hand. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
Since brevity is a virtue, we’ll keep it simple. Fun matters – in life and work! According to the Great Places to Work Institute, the organization that runs the Fortune Top 100 Companies to Work For initiative, a fun work environment is a key factor on the rise. Another article on LinkedIn explained that fun “boosts morale, reduce[s] stress, improve[s] staff retention, productivity, and revenue.” Let’s be honest – every now and again it’s nice to give yourself a break from the daily grind and do something a little fun. Even in the best jobs, fun makes the grind less of a grind. With their social atmosphere and interactive nature, conferences are the perfect way to inject that fun in a manner that is both rewarding and inspiring.
There are a million reasons you could come up with to attend a conference, including my favorite research runner-up, food, and cocktails. (We were being honest – right?) So with life moving so quickly, why make the time? Steven Covey says, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
If any of the reasons above are priorities for you – perhaps it’s worth penciling it in and investing the time!
*Thank you to everyone who helped provide their reasons for attending conferences. What began as a simple research project evolved into blog inspiration!