Don’t go to listen. Go to engage.
Sure, you’re interested to hear great speakers who cover interesting topics. A well-honed talk delivered by a charismatic speaker can imbue you with knowledge and inspiration. And if it’s that good, it’s probably also entertaining.
Many speakers won’t hit that high water mark, but even so you’ll likely get something from what they have to say. Something you can take back home with you and use in some way. Something that makes you a little bit better.
That’s why you go to the conference. Not just to get away, to break the routine. Also to get something and bring it back. Something to make the routine better, more productive, more fun. Or a big idea that changes the routine more dramatically, if you can figure out how to apply it.
If you’ve done that, it was a good conference experience. But of course, you should do more.
Soaking things in is all well and good, but sharing what you know is even better. Talking through ideas with other attendees, debating over lunch, challenging a speaker on a point. These are all ways of offering up what you know. What you think. What your experience has given you. And these are all ways of extracting the same from others.
And that’s where the magic is. Discussing. Exchanging. Interpreting. Debating. The processing of the ideas with others is where the real value is in the conference. And the ideas don’t even need to be anything that’s on the conference agenda. They’ll be something you have in common (or not) with other attendees who were drawn to the event for reasons similar to (or different from) your own. The point isn’t to follow an agenda, it’s to set your own. And also to go down a few errant paths.
The point, really, is to confer.
And that leads to the next reason to engage with others – to build relationships. The shared experience of attending the event is a good starting point. The exchange of ideas builds on that. And the appreciation of someone else’s background and perspective, along with sharing your own, takes it further. These relationships, of course, can continue well beyond the time and location of the conference. The best ones do.
Photo credit: dobrych