Recently I attended a technology conference; the technology industry has never been short on having conferences. This particular conference was hosted by a manufacturer and it had roughly 800 attendees. The article I am writing today is not about the vendor or the conference host; I wanted to explore the meeting of the minds. It’s interesting to discover the way many define what they see, or what they miss, all very differently.
All of us have attended conferences. The conferences within the technology community are more than likely the same as most industries as it relates to the attendees. The conference is the place to bring organizations and people together in a quest for collaboration, sharing best practices, sharing war stories, looking for the next secret weapon for their sales arsenal, and finally and most importantly, participating in good fun with their peers. I personally love conferences.
The attitudes of the attendees is what I personally find the most interesting, starting with the guy who hates the world. Everything he heard at last year’s conference didn’t work, so he’s determined this conference would probably be a waste of time too. Ok – obviously no one would come out and say those things, but all reading this have translated a conversation similarly. Then there’s the guy or gal who is so excited about what they do, they can overwhelm people. I admit, this could be me sometimes. All the attendees are there to be inspired, to learn something new, to uncover a more profitable opportunity, and to find new connections to help solve old problems.
They would travel across the country or across the world to find it. What most miss is – they are the secret weapon, they just need to ignite the fuse. Nothing learned, no matter the cost of tuition, no consultant regardless of their knowledge, or their reputation, and no sales advantage or gimmick will become a secret weapon. The facts are – your secret weapon can only be you, and you will uncover it when you commit to your passion causing action.
The value of the face to face time and the collaboration that conferences provide the venue for is priceless. When I attend conferences, I ask other attendees a couple questions. What did you learn last year? And how did you benefit? Most answer like this: well, I can’t really say one particular thing or another stood out, and they go on and explain how much they enjoyed all the peer to peer sharing, and will try a couple things.
This answer was a lot of times my answer, and what a stupid answer it is. What we are saying is, we love collaborating, learning new things, listening to the dreams and goals of others. This is so important to us, that as soon as the conference ends, we lock all this knowledge up in our own procrastination vault, where it stays – in the catacombs of our minds, right next to the last un-acted on knowledge from the conference the year before.
Here is my strategy for conference attending: talk to as many people as possible. However, determine the value of the conversation by the length of conversation; the last day, decide what two things elevated your passion on something you would actually consider committing to. Once you define those two things, that last day, put together an action plan on what it will take to move forward. Revisit the individuals who inspired you, and make sure you both have executed an agreement on action for next steps. Make it your goal from the conference – don’t let your passion for doing something different be swallowed up by the status quo monster when you return back to the office.
I believe if someone or something can wake up and fuel your passion, and then your response is procrastination – you are committing what I have defined as –
Everyone has an understanding of what changes are needed for success in every field, but not everyone has the passion to change or accept the new or better ways. This fact provides the value prop for those who execute the changes needed. So at your next conference, seek out the conversations which scare or challenge your status quo. Learn something different, and if it stirs your emotions, act on it. These results of action will provide you conference dialogue next year.
So if someone were to ask, what did you learn last year? And, how did you benefit when executed? You will have not only brought value to yourself, you will be sharing value with others. This, after all, is why we all go. See you at the next conference.