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Why you should attend a conference
By Christian Guthier
Just the other day a friend of mine, who also works in the not-for-profit sector, asked me about our upcoming conference: “This might sound like a stupid question, but if there is already a lot of ‘free’ information out there, why do people still attend conferences?”
It gave me pause to reflect on what seemed very obvious: from experience I know that conferences benefit people in many ways. But how do you break down the reason for attending a conference into something real, relevant, with tangible benefits?
A question that is even more relevant now, as we are faced with the ‘new normal’ of social distancing, and the economic challenges it brings – especially in the not-for-profit sector – which are like nothing we have experienced before.
The answer is that, whether you are attending a person-to-person event (when will that be possible again?) or an online event, there are many translatable benefits to share.
This post aims to share with you the top 5 reasons as to why people attend conferences, even if they are online, and how conferences can benefit you. A question even more relevant in the ‘Zoom-era’ we now live in.
5 top reasons you should attend conferences
It seems obvious, but conferences provide a great opportunity to network. Most people can help each other uncover ideas and spark inspiration when they get to know each other on a personal level. Peers from other organisations and regions of the world can become valuable referrers of resources and best-practices, helping you to expand your professional horizon. Linkedin of course is the ideal platform to connect with the names you came across at the event.
2. Expand your knowledge
Conferences take you out of your own little work-bubble too, offering you the chance to discover new ideas, resources that you weren’t aware of before, or to learn from some of the biggest names in your field. Names that you may not have previously heard of.
And of course, Q&A sessions give you the opportunity to ask speakers questions about what they are working on, as well as the rationale behind their presentation. They may even give you advice on how to enhance your own work. All of which you can’t do when reading articles or reports.
3. Present yourself
As you meet and talk to fellow attendees, you will invariably be presenting your work and ideas to those you meet. Talking about what you do with professionals from your sector can make you feel more confident about what you have achieved in your role.
You will also get some feedback from people who may have different solutions to similar problems, which in turn will provide a fresh insight.
4. People meet you
Regardless if you are the CEO of a large not-for-profit, a third year grad student, or an intern, you may be messaging someone after a presentation or in a network chat, and before you know it, make a connection with someone that could benefit your work.
This is especially important when you are looking for research opportunities, innovative inspiration, mentorship, or avenues to improve your sector knowledge that may help with career opportunities.
5. Stay relevant
The not-for-profit sector is rapidly and dynamically shifting and it’s tough to keep up-to-date, to stay professionally relevant to your peers, your organisation, and even potential employers.
Events and conferences provide a condensed and intense learning platform on the wider aspect of your sector, helping to you learn about the latest trends in your field.
Choose conference speakers that are relevant, yet challenge your understanding of the sector. Sure, you may think you’ve seen and heard it all before, but sometimes it can also be refreshing to revisit what sounds familiar, as new ideas and trends may challenge your perceptions.
Growing as a professional and individual requires you to get out of your comfort zone.
There are many benefits for attending conferences – online just as much as offline. From finding a new job, recruiting skilled people for a position, ‘getting out of the office’ for a few hours a day, and learning some new skills.
In the end, we all have our own reasons for attending, but speaking from personal experience, conference attendance dramatically enhances both your professional and personal development, as well as providing you with tools and skills which you cannot be taught in-house or online.
The focused nature of learning at a conference allows you to dig deeper with the understanding of your topic of interest.
Learn, share and connect
And, just in case you are curious, the conference I’m working on is Keeping Children Safe’s biggest-ever child safeguarding conference. You are welcome to learn, share and connect at the #KCS2020summit.
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