It’s that time of year that we are being inundated with advertisements for conference and retreats and it can be overwhelming to decide which is right for you. I mean, if you name a subject-any subject-there’s an expo, a conference, or a retreat for it, but the question that we have to ask ourselves is will it add value. As someone who loves to attend conferences (and host them), I have to think carefully about where my time and finances are best spent, and I bet the same is true for you. We don’t have time or money to waste so I’ve answered a few questions for you to consider as you think about registering for your next event.
1) Do you want to network with peers who have similar goals as yourself or identify a mentor who can help you realize those goals? Large conferences are going to be one of the best places for you to network with others who are passionate about the same things that you are, and one of the greatest benefits is that you’ll have the opportunity to meet others who live in various parts of the country and the world. You may not find a mentor due to so many people with the same intention being in attendance. It’s more challenging to establish a relationship with a speaker in the little time you have to meet them. Small conferences, on the other hand, are going to introduce you to people who’ve made significant progress that aligns with your passion and there will be greater opportunity for you to leave an impression on those speakers during the session or in conversation outside of it. You’ll have the opportunity to stay in contact with them by requesting their information to follow up, and you may just leave with a new mentor who can share insight into your journey.
2) Do you have any friends who will be attending the event with you? If you do, that will help cut down on costs since you can share travel and lodging expenses together and make it a bonding experience, which is always fun. If you don’t have anyone, do not get discouraged. Go anyway! It may be more rewarding to go alone because you will be motivated to talk with others in order to make it a memorable experience. Traveling to conferences or retreats with friends makes us more hesitant to leave our comfort zones and connect with others, but it is still possible. You just have to be intentional about it.
3) Is it within driving distance or will you be traveling long distance to attend? Don’t limit those conferences within driving distance just because they are near your residence. Why spend extra money if local conference hosts are paying to bring the same speakers to an event near you? Do a little research; you might be surprised by what you find. I know I have. Now, if you have the money, make it an excursion and get away so that you can explore a new (or favorite) city after the sessions are complete. Just don’t get lost when you’re supposed to be sitting in a session.
I’ve been to a lot of conferences, both large and small, and when I do my research, I always leave satisfied because my expectations were met. When I travel to large conferences, I make it a habit to transition to sessions quickly so I can get a good seat, I research various networking mixers that will be held in connection to the event, and I take snacks with me so I’m not “hangry” if a session extends beyond the time it was supposed to last. When I travel to small events, I research the speakers in advance so that I can prepare a few questions to ask them and I schedule a time to follow up with someone that I’ve met so we can share notes and connect further. Conferences and retreats can help you to accelerate your growth as you learn from others who have been there and done that thing you are journeying to develop, so choose carefully and have fun!