I think attending conferences is a great opportunity to learn as well as geeking out with like minds. Conferences like An Event Apart are you packed full of great talks that your brain just can’t comprehend anything else after the sessions are over fo the week. The purpose of conferences are for at least two reasons: learning something new relevant to your industry and networking with others in the same field. Though some can be expensive, the value is more than the ticket.
However, I sometimes see a few attendees who are answering emails or doing small work here or there. I don’t think you can fully focus on a talk when you’re mind shifting between the talk and work. You may hear or even type the words, but are you actually allowing yourself to process the concepts and ideas? I do understand that not all topics may appeal to everyone. But for employees who are being interrupted by their work, they could possibly miss something the speaker said that wasn’t in the presentation.
Companies/businesses/managers: allow your employees to attend conferences uninterrupted. Treat it as if they are on vacation on a deserted island. If there are potential risks during their absence, create a back-up plan for those. When you were in school, were you allowed to talk during the lessons? No, your focus was on the learning material. Attendees, do not offer to be available while attending. Even after the sessions are over, it’s nice to network with others and see if you can learn from their team’s experiences. If you’re more introverted, go back to your room and process the day’s topics. Use that uninterrupted time to start planning how you can incorporate even just one thing into your team’s current workflow.
photo caption: Photo from An Event Apart in Washington, D.C. with Michael Austin Sui speaking about Inclusive Design
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