Conferences are way more than the speakers on stage, they are a lifeline to others just like you- others who are passionate about the same topics, and are quite possibly in the same stage of their career or entrepreneurship journey.
I’m a builder by trade. I help people and companies think outside the box when it comes scaling their businesses. It is, and will always be, my passion. That said, it’s really hard to find people who are in the same mindset that I am all the time.
Don’t get me wrong, I did 9 years at one of the biggest communications firms in the country, and totally understand the value and security that having a title at a firm provides, but having friends who all do that makes it really hard to find creative energy when you need it. Conferences, mastermind groups, mentorships, coaches, are all my lifelines to step outside the bubble that surrounds in my day to day live.
Are they Worth it?
I’ve been to 8 conferences this year, some gave me the privilege to be a speaker while others I attended out of sheer curiosity. And every single one was worth the time, money and effort it took to get there. It’s not always about the content on stage, but the relationships that you get to make offstage.
It’s amazing where you can find inspiration at big gatherings like that- lunch tables, hallways, after parties, hallway lobbies. Before you know it you’re having a long conversation about something that you don’t think anyone else understands or cares about. Those unexpected but insightful moments are what makes it all worthwhile.
Are all Conferences the same?
Conferences are pretty much made of people, and not everyone goes to the same thing. There are conferences for bloggers, photographers, lifestyle coaches, business coaches, social media (so much social media), and everything else under the sun. My favorite ones are where you get a great balances or beginners and experts to network with. The best Personal Finance conference is Fincon. The best marketing conference one in Toronto is mesh. Fashion and beauty bloggers in Canada have Spark Sessions.Travel bloggers have TBex. Each brings something new to the table.
The trick is knowing what you’re interested in and finding the best in that field. I try to stay away from really huge conferences as I don’t get much out of them but swag (not that there is anything wrong with that). I also avoid SXSW for that reason.
Some tips to check before buying your ticket:
- Who is speaking?
- Who is organizing the conference? Do they know what’s important in the space?
- Is there enough networking time built in?
- Will I get to make contacts with the brands/companies that I want to?
How do I get the most out of Conferences?
Have an agenda, and a goal in mind. Are you going to get more leads for work, find a job or an internship, network, or learn? Each option requires you to have a different mindset. The conferences where I’ve gotten the most networking done were the ones where I skipped a talk or two and grabbed with people I just met in the lobby. The ones where I’ve learned a ton were the ones where I cut back on my networking and went to bed early in order to be fully awake the next morning for the first talk. Trying to do everything at conference just burns me out, and I don’t get the value that I’m looking for.
It’s also really important to pay attention to the ROI of each conference.
There a few that I would love to attend, but when I factor in the cost of airfare, hotel, and conference ticket, it just doesn’t make sense. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think they are worth it, but $3000 – $4000 to attend a conference in Australia when I live in Canada just work for my self-improvement/marketing budget.
Conferences are a huge investment of time, money, and energy, and should be treated as such. The best thing you can get from a business card, and introduction to someone who will be instrumental in your growth.
So what’s the best conference that you’ve been to? What made it great?