Why attend a conference?

by Jean Tower


As a board member of MassCUE , I was really pleased that the attendance at our recent conference was up 33% from 2007. Talking to people at the conference I listened closely when attendees talked about how good the conference was. I heard positive comments about exhibitors, keynote speakers, and breakout sessions.

In the days since the conference, I have been thinking about the success of the conference and wondering why. Why attend a conference? It is easy to imagine all of the barriers to going to a conference – money is tight; budgets are frozen; it is difficult to be out of the classroom or school district for even one day, never mind two; there are plentiful opportunities for professional development online . . .

Now, for the reasons TO attend. Attendance at a good face to face conference means many opportunities to make connections. Conference participants network with colleagues and share ideas, successes, and frustrations. I think the sharing is more powerful when people are together because there is also an emotional connection and chances to just have fun together. I heard lots of people say it was worth coming to the conference just for the keynote speakers. Wesley Fryer and Hall Davidson were exciting, thought-provoking, and charismatic. Charisma is sometimes lost in an online, textual exchange.

Making personal connections with the exhibitors is also a huge benefit to attending the conference. One quick conversation could solve what you’ve been trying to resolve by phone call for weeks. Attendees told me they got free trials and found out about free training resources at the conference, learned about software and hardware, and met people they had previously only dealt with by email or phone.

When I think about my own highpoints of the conference they all have to do with personal connections – working with all the MassCUE members who bring you the conference every year, Beth Knittle helping me with a technical issue on my blog, Will Richardson ’s session, From Information Literacy to Information Leadership , so conversational and participatory, conversations with people who came up to me to ask “What’s new at MassCUE?” I can’t list here all the great conversations and personal connections that made the conference worthwhile. Given all the constraints on our time and money, I have to guess that the personal connections are part of the reason other people attend.

How about you? Why do you attend conferences?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Beth Knittle November 30, 2008 at 2:01 pm

I really enjoyed the conference as well this year. I love the face-to-face meetings. They inspire me and help continue and strengthen the online conversations I have in between conferences. I am glad to see your tech issues have been resolved.

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