I am sitting in my hotel room writing this post and am excited this academic year is the first where higher education teams have a full plate of in-person conferences in several years.
Why In-Person Events Matter to Me
Here are a few reasons I think in-person events are important. And of course the disclaimer – I think virtual events were incredibly helpful with budgets, the hardships of travel, and the safety we needed at the time. It’s also a bit of absence makes the heart grow fonder, as I am able to articulate why in-person events matter to me.
Team Bonding – As someone who joined a new team recently, getting to go to conferences and be with my team is helpful to get to know them better. There is a bond that forms when you are all sitting in the floor stuffing registration packets or having a drink at the local brewery (see above).
Strategic Conversations – When attending online conferences, it’s difficult to dive deeper into a challenge. Sometimes it’s a follow up to something a speaker said. However, sometimes it’s the great conversation in the bar about a topic that is a challenge. I’ll be the first to admit, some of my best conference learnings haven’t come from the sessions. They’re from the other moments.
Fewer Distractions – When attending in person events, I am much better at focusing on what I should be focusing on: the speaker in the room. I find I get more out of the conferences when I am sitting in the room with the speaker. There are fewer moments for my mind to wander to other tasks or to aimlessly access my email inbox.
Advice for Conference Attendees
Whether it’s your first conference, or your first conference in a while — here are a few tips that I find helpful.
Mingle – It’s so important to not eat and sit with your team every moment. I think bonding is important, but it is important to network with others to build your own tribe.
Go to A Session Outside of Your Area – If you go to one session at the conference outside of your area, it will help you to understand and learn about the others who are part of your team. The knowledge in that session may help you understand the context through which team members approach things and help you to better build relationships with your counterparts.
Don’t Feel Obligated to Go to Every Session – There are certain blocks in the schedule that just may not resonate with you. That’s okay. Instead of forcing yourself to go to something, have a follow up conversation, learn more about the sponsors, or relax. Your brain only has so much bandwidth, so don’t tax yourself if something doesn’t speak to you.
Take Part in Evening Activities – Some of the best conference conversations happen over dinner or at the evening activities. It’s important to be part of those aspects of the conference too. While it can be tempting to answer all the emails and take it easy after a full day, push yourself to focus on building relationships with other attendees.
Getting the Most Out of Sessions
If you’re needing a few tips on how to get the most out of sessions, this is another post that I think can be pretty helpful. It talks about how to prioritize all the conference learning when you get back to the office.
As you and your teams head back to conferences, I hope to see you at several conferences this fall and spring!