The Hidden Value of Conferences and Symposiums

– Leveraging your participation in a conference to the benefit of yourself, your team and your network

If all you are planning on doing at the next conference you attend is to learn something from the sessions and the exhibits, my advice would be to save your money, focus on your work, and ‘get the dvd’. As we all know, attending conferences isn’t just about the sessions, the keynote speakers, or the product demos. The values you attain from attending conferences are all in the periphery, they are about the ‘X Factors’, those that help you , your team and your company get ahead professionally.

As project and program management professionals, keeping up with the latest techniques, tools and methodologies is part of what keeps us relevant and in hot demand across industries and geographies.  Managing our time to allow for professional development in addition to keeping up with demanding schedules and managing our teams, we need to ensure that we spend time the continued need to develop our skills, build our network and share our knowledge with others.

Attending a conference or a symposium can be a good way to get a check in all the boxes above, while also allowing you to de-couple from the work environment and the team and focus the attention to you.  The goal should be to find opportunities to attend a conference where you can add valuable skills, knowledge or connections to help you as well as your company and together achieve your common goals.

Project and Program Management professionals tend to be thirsty for knowledge and to network with others, it is after all one of our core skills, communication, and what we spend a large portion of our time doing.

As part of my development I have chosen a couple of conferences in the month of October and will be looking to achieve all of the objectives above, to further my knowledge, my network and add knowledge back to the field. I’ll be attending a Six Sigma/Lean conference at Cisco, an IT Strategy Conference in Chicago and the Silicon Valley PMI Annual Symposium in San Jose. It’ll be a busy month for sure.

Choosing to attend and participate in a conference can have a wealth of additional hidden values and benefits that most of us don’t think about when we go. I usually go into a conference with these in the back of my head and hope to utilize some of them along the way as I participate. Since many of our blog readers attend conferences both in the San Francisco Bay Area and other places in the world, I thought that I would share it with you, and perhaps you can share with me some of the hidden values and benefits you derive from attending conferences.

Here are a few of the areas on my list that I’ll touch on:

  • Tough Problems to solve: What is your current ‘nutcracker’ issue that you and your team are working on and can’t make headway on?
  • Leading Change & Transformation: What change are you leading in your organization, and what pitfalls and leverage points can others share?
  • Growing and learning by fixing other people’s problems: What key piece of new information do you have from your experience that can help others?
  • Connecting the right people: Who at the conference needs to meet? Who can you help introduce to mutually derive value.
  • Conduit of knowledge: Who from your team could benefit from this? What nugget of gold can you bring back that your teams can leap-frog the current progress by using?
  • Future opportunities to present your topic of interest: Determining how you can make the right connections with organizers to be a future presenter.
  • Volunteering: Finding ways to help the conference organizers succeed by lending a helping hand.
  • Your ‘Social Presence’: Sharing what you learn and what you think ‘live’ with your network and get immediate feedback to help your learning further.
  • Mentoring and helping others succeed: Spend part of your time helping others succeed by showing them the ropes and making beneficial introductions to others in the field

In the following posts I’ll share why I keep these in mind, what benefit they have for myself and those I meet, examples, and any tips I have learned along the way.

Feel free to share your stories and tips as well in the comments section.

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