There are so many ways to learn new skills, obtain knowledge, and network with others these days. For example, you can read blogs, listen to podcasts, watch videos, or hop on webinars or conference calls just to name a few. You never have to leave the comfort of your sofa, desk chair, or bar stool ( it’s ok, I won’t judge). So why would you bother with the time, travel, and logistics of going to a live event or conference in a land far far away?
Hmmm. If that’s how you think, then you might be missing out on one of the best experiences of your life. Live events, conferences, or symposiums provide unique learning, networking, and community building opportunities that you just can’t find anywhere else.
I have been to many conferences and huge events (pre and post vision loss), related to health and fitness, rare diseases, assistive technology, and LHON — and there are reasons why I make the effort to attend events in person. I just returned from my 6th LHON conference and let me tell you, I wouldn’t trade my involvement and experience with it for anything! Wait. Wait. I could sure use a personal chef and a chauffeur. Hmm. Nahh. Never mind. I’ve got some decent “wine in a box” and “ready to go” salads in the fridge and precious kids who drive. I’m good. I’ll keep the conference experiences!
Here are 8 reasons why you should consider attending a conference/event 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, and I thought I would die standing next to people like Charlene Johnson and Shaun T!! Just. effing. die! I obviously survived the thrill of it all, and the photos are somewhere on an old phone, on my computer, or in that Apple cloud place.
Those moments and photos could never have happened on an online fitness webinar. Nope. Never happen.
Sometimes you have to take a break from your dull 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 LHON conference, I usually return with new skills and knowledge that make me more confident, current, and compelled to do more of what I’m passionate about.
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 ones. By networking over coffee, lunch, or cocktails, you may 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 BBFF (Blind Best Friend Forever).
If you don’t go, someone else will be sitting in your seat with who could have been your newest mentor or BBFF! Are you going to let that happen?
Whether there’s an exhibit hall or just a few tables near the coffee and muffins, companies often have the latest and greatest whatever on display. At some of the assistive tech exhibits I have been to, walking around and checking out the hottest tools and tech is an all-day (or multi-day) affair. Learning about new devices, services, apps, and software that make daily life easier, improve accessibility, or give greater independence for blind people is not only educational, but fascinating too!
While undoubtedly these products can be found at their 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 have your eye on. No pun intended.
I suspect you won’t have a panic attack while reading a blog post in the comfort of your own home or office. You probably won’t break into a sweat listening to a podcast (unless you’re on a run), and more than likely, you don’t have to make small talk while that YouTube video loads on your laptop. Why? Because inside your comfort zone, there is no anxiety or angst. There is also no personal growth or magical unicorns handing out chocolate.
While there are those of us who are born extroverts, for many others, live events can be a challenge. But stepping out of our comfort zone is just the type of action we need to take to change old ways of thinking. This type of thinking that has, at times, put us in a funk and feel like a failure and no one needs that.
You can always invite a friend or two to go with you so you are not completely on your own. Did I hear someone say, “Road trip Bitches!”???
The thing about the internet is we believe that everything is at our fingertips. And maybe it is. But it’s 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 Neuro-Ophthalmologist presenting a session called “LHON 101” in a simple easy to understand format. What a delight! I’m sure lots 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, I mean always, one, or two, or ten, hilarious tales to tell upon your return home! Trust me on that one!
There’s nothing like being in a room full of like-minded people. Other people who 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 lacking if you are sitting at home alone, with your pet iguana “Mr. Iggy” in your lap, listening and learning online. Nothing wrong with that, it’s just not the same energy and vibe.
And, last but not least…
If you’re not having fun, why do it? Right? Conferences are fun! Live events are fun! Maybe it’s what you make of it with like-minded people in attendance. (The introverts reading this may be rolling their eyes or going to their happy places right now.)
I’m not a networking pro. I 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. 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!
Some thoughts to wrap this up…
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.
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. However, conferences and events combine a unique blend of networking, learning, and fun, creating a golden opportunity to invest in yourself. Start saying yes to the opportunities and no to the regrets. We can go find those chocolate wielding magical unicorns later. x
*These are just a handful of reasons based on my experience only.