There are so many ways to obtain knowledge, learn new skills, and network with other people these days. For example, you can read blogs, listen to podcasts, watch videos, or hop onto online webinars, just to name a few. You never have to leave the comfort of your living room sofa, office chair, or that bar stool at your favorite watering hole (it’s ok, I don’t judge).
So, why in the world would you hassle with the time, travel, and logistics of going to a live event or conference in a land far far away?
If that’s how you think, then you might be missing out on one of the best experiences of your life. Live events, conferences, and expos provide unique learning, networking, and community building opportunities that you can’t find anywhere else.
I have been to many conferences and huge events over the years (pre and post vision loss) related to health and fitness, rare disease, blind organizations, and assistive technology — and there are reasons why I make an effort to attend conferences in person.
Here are eight reasons why you should consider attending a conference in person.
1. Meet experts and mentors in person
While not all conferences offer the opportunity to meet your idols, your chances are greatly improved when you’re sharing the same space. Sometimes it’s about taking a selfie with someone who’s influenced or mentored you, sharing an idea with someone you admire, or making a connection for your next collaboration.
I remember meeting several of my biggest fitness industry idols at a live event. I thought I would literally die standing next to people like Charlene Johnson and Shaun T! Just…die! I obviously survived the thrill of it all, and the selfies are somewhere on an old phone or in that cloud storage place as proof I met them.
Those moments and photos could never have happened if I chose to watch an online fitness webinar or live video from the event..
2. Sharpen your skills
Sometimes you need to take a break from the monotony of your job or routine to sharpen your skills. A dull axe won’t cut a tree nearly as effectively as a sharp one.
Whether it’s a fitness event or an assistive technology expo, I usually return home with new skills, ideas, and knowledge that make me more confident, current, and compelled to do more and be more.
3. Build your network
Social media keeps me connected to my peers who are near and far. However, there’s no substitution for meeting someone in person. Great conferences have opportunities for attendees to meet and mingle, form new relationships, and strengthen existing bonds. By networking over coffee, lunch, or cocktails, you might make a connection with the perfect partner or prospect for your next idea or project. You may also find yourself sitting next to a new mentor or future BFF.
If you don’t go, someone else will be sitting in your seat, next to the person who could have been YOUR new mentor or BFF! Are you going to let that happen?
Sometimes, leaving our comfort zone is just the type of action we need to take.
4. The exhibit hall experience
Whether there’s an exhibit hall or just a few tables near the coffee and muffins, companies often have their latest and greatest products on display. At some of the assistive tech exhibits I’ve been to, walking around and checking out the hottest tools and tech is an all-day (or multi-day) affair. Learning about the newest devices, wearables, software, services, and apps (like Aira), that make daily life easier – and give greater independence for blind people – is not only educational but fascinating too!
While undoubtedly these products can be found on company websites, it’s great to get a hands-on demonstration or be able to ask a company representative questions that are specific to your needs. Sometimes you can get special conference pricing on a product or service you had your eye on. No pun intended!
5. Leave your comfort zone
I suspect you won’t have a panic attack while reading a blog post in the comfort of your own office. You probably won’t break into a cold sweat listening to a podcast lying in your cozy bed. Why? Because inside your comfort zones, there is no anxiety or angst. There is also no personal growth.
While there are those of us who are born extroverts, for many others, live events can be a challenge. Sometimes, leaving our comfort zone is just the type of action we need to take — to change old ways of thinking. The type of thinking that has, at times, put us in a funk – and no one likes that.
You don’t have to venture out of your comfort zones by yourself. You can always invite a friend or have your trusty Aira app at the ready on your phone so you’re not completely on your own!
6. The tales and tidbits
The thing about the internet is we believe that everything is at our fingertips. Although that may be the case, it’s also an overwhelming amount of information that can be spread across many websites and may be difficult to navigate and comprehend.
I recall listening to several world-renown doctors talking about various rare diseases in a simple, easy to understand format. What a delight that was! I’m sure a lot of that information was already on the internet, but a good presentation will help cut through the minutia to deliver the best content and tidbits for the attendees to take with them. No internet needed.
Oh, and there are always, and I mean always, one, two, or ten hilarious tales to tell upon your return home! Trust me on that one!
7. The energy in the room
There’s nothing like being in a room full of like-minded people. Other people who, like you, are willing and able to take time away from work and home to build relationships and learn new things.
When you sit in a conference room, you discover that you’re not alone. You’re not alone in wanting to pick up every nugget of knowledge and good vibe you can. You are there for it. They are there for it. That energy is missing if you are sitting at home alone, snacking on Oreos with your precious pet iguana on your lap, listening and learning online. Nothing wrong with that, I love Oreos too. But it’s just not the same awesome energy and vibe.
8. The fun factor!
If you’re not having fun, why do it? Right? Conferences and live events are fun! Maybe it’s what you make of it with like-minded people in attendance. Just so you know, I’m not a networking pro. I still struggle with finding the right way to break into a conversation with people I don’t know (and can’t see). But I’ve gotten better. I’ve gotten better by attending conferences and involving myself in the fun, fellowship, and frivolity that comes with them.
By sitting at a lunch or dinner table with people I don’t (yet) know, I’ve made some amazing connections. I’ve made even more amazing friendships just from chatting during breaks throughout the day. That only happens when you are there – live and in person!
A few last thoughts
I am well aware that traveling to conferences is not for everyone. Physical or mental limitations may not allow travel and attendance. I totally understand that. But, if you get the right opportunity, and you can figure a way to travel safely to the destination, you should consider attending one.
I’m also aware that conferences can be expensive and time-consuming. From the cost of the conference registration and plane flights, to the meals and unexpected bar tabs you may (or may not) remember signing for – it can all add up. And that doesn’t even include the time away from work, home, and family. I get it. Perhaps putting that conference on your calendar now, will give you time to plan the what, when, and how!
Conferences and events combine a unique blend of networking, learning, and fun, and create a golden opportunity to invest in yourself. Take these reasons to heart and start saying “yes” to the opportunities and “no” to the regrets. You can thank me later!
To download and use Aira for free, visit: www.aira.io/mariaj.