Should you attend conferences and networking events?

Always learning, always improving…

(And don’t give your competitor the opportunity to take your seat!)

Perry Ashby from Urban Network, and one of our valued Network Group members, poses this question to all of us who value the community in networking:

Why should you attend conferences?  7 Reasons…

Today there are so many great ways to learn and improve your business; you can read blogs (such as this one!), attend webinars, listen to podcasts and watch videos on YouTube to name a few. So why would you bother with the time and expense of an in-person conference or event?

The team at Urban Network regularly attend conferences and events, it is part of our “always-learning, always-improving” culture. We truly believe that being members of these groups makes us a better company to work with - and for.

Over the next several months we will have attended several conferences including vendor events such as the Sophos Partner Conference being held in Lisbon, Portugal this year, Cloud Expo in London, Autotask European Conference in Amsterdam, CompTIA in Cardiff and the upcoming Network Group event in Brighton.

Break out of your comfort zone

Attending a conference forces you to break out of your comfort zone.

It’s easy to watch a webinar from the privacy of your own office, you won’t break a sweat listening to a podcast (unless you’re on the treadmill.) You don’t have to make small talk while your YouTube video loads up.

While there are those among us who are born networkers, for many of us live events, and other people, can be a challenge. But breaking out of our comfort zones is just the type of action we need to take to break out of old ways of thinking.

If you’re absolutely terrified of the idea of going to a conference, why not bring a colleague so you won’t feel completely on your own?

There’s nothing like being in a room of like-minded people.

When you sit in a room and you discover that you’re not alone in experiencing the various difficulties within your business, or wanting to improve your skills and bring something back to your office or organisation.

Other people who are willing to take time away from the office to learn something new, other people who want to “better” themselves. That energy is lacking in all online learning channels, regardless of how much chatter there may be around a hashtag.

Sharpen the saw 

The idea is that sometimes you must take a break from the “work” of your work to sharpen your skills. A dull axe won’t cut a tree nearly as effectively as a sharp one. Well-known author, businessman and keynote speaker Stephen Covey lists this as his seventh habit of highly effective people.

We always return from a conference with new ideas and approaches that makes us more effective and efficient at work.

Don’t be the woodcutter hacking away at the tree with a dull axe while your competition cuts it down in half the time with a sharp one.

Meet Experts & Leaders Face to Face

While not all conferences offer you the opportunity to meet your business idols, having the opportunity be in the same room as them and to listen about how they approach business is certainly a great experience, and one that you can only benefit from and walk away with a positive attitude and belief that you can too.

Understanding how leaders in business approach and overcome challenges mean your chances are greatly improved when you’re sharing the same space.

That never could have happened from an online webinar.

Networking Opportunities

Good conferences have opportunities for attendees to mix and mingle, form new relationships, and strengthen existing ones. Over coffee, lunch, or cocktails, you may make a connection with the perfect provider or prospect. At a breakout session, you may find yourself sitting next to your next customer or mentor.

Or, if you don’t go, maybe your biggest competitor will be sitting in your seat.

New Tools 

Whether there’s an expo floor, or just a few tables scattered around the room, companies often have tools to display that we haven’t seen yet. Applications or tools that make us better, faster or different from our competitors and give us some an edge.

While undoubtedly these products can be found at their websites, it’s great to get a hands-on demonstration, or be able to ask questions that are specific to your business struggles from the company itself.

Have FUN!

We are not sure this is the most important of all these reasons, but it also shouldn’t be left off the list. Conferences are fun! Live events with other people are fun!

You may not a master networker and struggle with finding the right way to break into a conversation with people you don’t know. But this can improve by attending conferences, sitting at lunch tables or in a room with people you don’t (yet) know. You will make some amazing connections and even more amazing friends from going to live events.

Don’t miss out on these opportunities!

Conclusion

We understand that conferences can be expensive. From the conference ticket, travel costs, to the food and possible drinks bill. And that doesn’t even include the time away from the office where you could be doing “work.”

However, conferences provide a unique convergence of networking, learning, and fun into a single package. A good conference forces you to grow and challenge yourself.

And if you’re the boss, allowing your team to get out of the office, gain confidence in their ability, and bring fresh ideas back to the business is just an investment in your own company.

 

Thank you to Perry Ashby, Urban Network, for this contribution