I like industry conferences. Recently, I participated in Agile 2016, held this year in Atlanta. As I reflect on this trip, I’m amazed at how much value I got out of it. I count at least five ways this trip was beneficial. This feeling is consistent with other events I’ve participated in, be it Agile Games, Agile New England and others . I’d like to describe why I get so much value out of attending conferences. Perhaps it will make you want to try one, in case you haven’t yet.
Value As Attendee
The most obvious value I get out of conferences is as an attendee. There is typically a large selection of relevant and well-presented topics delivered by passionate people. The presenters are sometimes industry thought leaders. I love to have a chance to experience them first hand. And frequently, I can meet and talk to them. Not only do I walk away with new information and ideas, but also the presenter’s energy gives me a sense of renewal for whatever cause I’m pursuing.
Value As Presenter
When I can, I give back to the community of interest I am part of by sharing my experience. For example, at Agile 2016 I co-presented how we have evolved our internal Agile education to make it more effective for learners. It sure is hard work to prepare a workshop or presentation. And there is no doubt that it can be stressful. But, as the old saying goes: “If you want to master something, teach it”. There is no better way to organize your thoughts and deepen your understanding than to instruct other people. The Agile community is particularly good at providing constructive feedback. I always walk away stronger.
Value Of Networking
It’s so easy to meet other professionals at a conference. Not only do we share an interest in common, but often we’ll be wearing name tags. Getting introduced is thus a breeze. Making connections is great because I frequently stumble on people who have solved problems I’m wrestling with, or who face issues I can help with, or who could eventually be business partners. Think of it like LinkedIn, only much high bandwidth, quicker, and more personal
Value Of Business Development
As I attended a recent conference, I was also wrestling with a business challenge for which I was looking for expert assistance. Because a significant portion of the world’s experts was in attendance, my team and I were able to organize four introductory conversations in the short span of two days. We were quickly able to identify two providers that could help us, and we may soon hire one of them. That same sequence of events would have taken weeks of wall clock time had it been done from the office.
Value Of Fun
At many events, and particularly at Agile 2016, the organizers did a marvelous job teeing up activities that encouraged people to unwind, relax and build relationships. I can be skeptical of those socializing events, but I have to admit that I usually have a great time. And it’s nice to have something fun to do, especially when you are away from home.
In short, between learning through others, learning by teaching, building new connections, making progress on business issues, and having fun, I get a ton of value from industry conferences. I plan to continue to attend, and I sure hope that I will keep on being invited to present to share my experience. Bottom line: participating in conferences has made me a more valuable change agent. I think you would find the same.