All of us, at some time or another, have attended a conference, perhaps a one-day event or a week-long convention. Some, however, wonder if there really is a benefit to attending any type of conference at all. They think of the cost or the time spent at an event and wonder if there is a definite need to go.
Personally, I've attended at least one conference a year since 1998. Attending the very first one made me see how quickly the benefits outweigh any negative aspect. One thing that people always bring up is the cost of travel. If you're lucky enough to have your company pay for you to attend a non-local conference, then you should definitely take advantage. A good idea is to also check if there are any events of interest being held in your area so you don't have to pay for airfare or hotel. If you're low on funds, however, and the conference you're thinking of attending is far from home, there are a few ways to lessen the burden. More on that later.
So let's say you're about to make a decision on that conference, but you're still not sure. Here are some benefits as to why you SHOULD attend:
- Meet veterans in the biz. If you're a beginner in your field, you'll see and meet those who are more advanced and experienced and learn from them.
- Learn about what's happening in your field. Conferences allow you to see what trends are taking place and what new innovations and changes are happening.
- The chance to network. The opportunity to meet people who work in your industry and possibly meet someone who can help you and be a big help to you professionally can be priceless. This happened to me and made a huge impact in my life. My mentor is still one of my best friends. Speaking to those who have years of experience can only help, and expanding your contacts can only be a good thing. Face-to-face communication is something valuable that can't be replaced by using social media.
- Training sessions and panel discussions. These provide a wonderful way for you to learn about new inventions and technologies; discuss topics that are affecting the business; ask questions without feeling intimidated, since many will have the same questions; and learn how to do your job better. Anything that's learned can be taken back to your team back in the office.
- Sales leads. Many, if not most industries depend on sales to succeed. It's a good way to meet prospects and develop a relationship with them right away.
- Branding opportunities. You can show other attendees that you're an expert in your field and represent your company and promote the product(s).
- See people excited about the work they do and feel support from others. It's easy to believe you're the only one experienceing some type of problem, but at a conference you'll meet people in the exact same situation as you. Learn from each other and see how others cope. Equally, you'll see people who can't imagine doing anything else with their life. You'll either realize that's how you feel or even maybe realize you're in the wrong line of work. That's a good thing to realize, however.
If cost is the deal breaker, there are a few ways to ease the financial stress. Try looking into these suggestions below.
- Take advantage of early registration and knock off a couple of hundred dollars if you register before the deadline.
- If you have a friend who wants to attend, share a room and your savings will increase. The conference website should mention whether there is an official hotel, usually closest to a convention center where the event will take place or even where the actual convention will be. This way, you don't have to spend on taxi or bus fare.
- Check to see if the conference organizers also have an official airline. The airline may offer a discount as a result, but always compare prices.
- If the conference is reachable by bus or train, that can be a much less expensive alternative then flying.
It's now up to you to decide whether or not you'll attend that conference you've had your eye on. The best thing to do is simply prepare and save up, if necessary. Attending a conference in your field may reap benefits that may never have happened if it weren't for your being there.