A nerdy professional guilty pleasure
Everyone has their guilty pleasures. For some it’s chocolate, for others it’s trashy books. While most associate them with their personal lives, these guilty pleasures can creep over into your professional life as well. It can take the form of getting wrapped up in office gossip or even doing something around the office that you shouldn’t do (I’ll let your imaginations go with that one).
My professional guilty pleasure isn’t all that exciting; in fact, it’s downright nerdy. My secret professional love is work conferences.
I dig ‘em. Whether it’s a live webcast, or even better yet, in person, I crave the stuff.
Don’t get me wrong, a good amount of what happens at conferences is fluff. It can take the form of a ra-ra “repeat after me” chant initiated by a company executive. I have even seen my company hire singers who take a stupid template for a song that they throw three or four relevant references about my company into in order to make it sound like the song was written just for us.
Last week, I attended a multi-day leadership conference that my company put on and was reminded of the great things that in-person conferences offer. Here are 5 reasons why you should love conferences too:
- You can sharpen your sword– In my first book, I referenced the importance of being a constant learner. With the burden of our daily responsibilities and endless inboxes full of to do’s, we often forget to build our skills. A number of famous quotes say something to the effect that once we stop learning we stop living. Careers stall when you forget to sharpen your skills by either learning new things or being reminded of timeless lessons. Conferences can provide you with this training. It’s also a good thing to take advantage of when your company puts money into building your skills.
- It’s a break away from the office– While we have to deal with the backlog of email and other deadlines that don’t just stop because we aren’t at our desks, conferences offer a nice break away from the office. At times these sessions are in other cities, allowing us to get a change of scenery and to clear our heads a little bit. A deviation from the normal day-to-day can give us some good perspective.
- For the networking– With so much training and development happening through web-based content because of the lower cost, in-person conferences are becoming less frequent (side note: I don’t know about you, but I tend to get distracted with web conferences, looking at email or doing something else. With in-person conferences there is a different level of focus). In-person conferences allow you to network with people from different parts of your company and from different geographic areas. Strengthening these relationships, and building new ones through networking, can really help you get your work done faster and more efficiently in the future. Seeing each other face-to-face is an important element of business that helps people buy-in to you and your ideas more; something that is lost in other forms of technology. Plus, the networking (especially the kind that takes place at night after the day’s session) is the most fun.
- The “swag”– Sometimes it’s crap, but other times it can be pretty cool. Most conferences have giveaways and other free stuff handed out at these conferences. From water bottles, to great leadership books to prizes like smartphones, your can pick up some pretty awesome stuff at company conferences.
- The thoughts sparked– Above the other 4 reasons to love in-person conferences, my favorite benefit of this time away from my office is not necessarily the dose of inspiration that a speaker provides, but the thoughts provoked in my own mind. There have been countless times when a speaker is droning away but then offers a statement that provokes an awesome thought in my mind. It could be something I realize that will help me do my job better, or maybe a new idea for a project I am working on; but I have found that the conversation in my head sparked by either something I learn at the conference (or just having the time away to clear my head) has been incredibly valuable throughout my career to this point.
So value the time spent at conferences. It’s better to take a conference call or shoot out a couple emails from the hallway outside the conference room than not go to the conference at all. Who knows, you might make a connecting that leads to your next job, or you may spark a big idea at the next conference you attend. Even a nerdy guilty pleasure like conferences can be a huge help to your career.