Back when I was an assistant professor of systems engineering, attending and presenting in conferences wasn’t just an assumption, it was an expectation. You were going to go present. You were going to publish. It was just a part of your professional growth.

Now that I’m far more practitioner than academic, my supervisors tend to look at me a little strangely when I tell them how much of a budget I want to set aside for research and conference attendance.

Why bother? they ask. Especially given the number of digital means we have to collaborate and the number of planning workshops we get called to do. Why would you want to go don your best lanyard and prowl among seminar sessions with a bunch of relative strangers?

Here are my top five reasons you should want to attend a conference:

1. Get excited about your chosen subject matter area.

Are you in a rhythm at work? Or are you in a rut? Sometimes, it’s hard to tell the difference. Getting out and digging back into the details, the theory, and the state of the art in what you do can be what you need to get yourself out of a rut and jog loose some new ideas, or at least rekindle some love for what you’re doing.

2. See the latest in industry trends.

Look for professional conferences. You’ll see a lot of vendors out there who are looking to connect with new clients and new practitioners and demo the latest and greatest products they’ve created. You might find tools you weren’t aware of and solutions to problems you weren’t quite sure how to tackle. And if you’re researching a particularly hot topic, you’re likely to draw a lot of folks working solutions in the same arena.

3. Get ideas.

Stalling out on ways to further develop yourself or your team in your field? Not only are you likely to get your enthusiasm jump-started, but you’re likely to pick up some new ideas for how to get things done. And you just might find some folks who are willing to collaborate on researching and implementing a new idea.

4. Meet online collaborators, colleagues, and friends IRL.

It amazes me how much I grew up being told to be wary of strangers on the internet, and so many of my friends and collaborators in my field are, well, strangers on the internet. Getting out to conferences and seminars is a great way to link up with those folks in real life, and despite all the great digital ways we have to communicate, there still is no substitute for a face to face meeting.

5. Have fun.

Conferencing should be fun. Granted, especially for those footing the bill, it’s not all about the entertainment and swag, but that’s definitely a perk of attending a good conference! And if you’re traveling to somewhere you’ve never been before, take some time to get to know the place. Connect with some of your colleagues who are from the conference locale or some new friends who are adventurous, too, and go explore and enjoy!


What are your favorite reasons to go conferencing? What do you get out of your conference events?

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