There are so many great ways to learn and sharpen your skills these days: you can read blogs, listen to podcasts, watch how-to videos on YouTube, and attend webinars, just to name a few. Why bother with the time and expense of an in-person conference or workshop?
If that’s your attitude, then you may be missing out on one of the best opportunities to take your game to the next level. Live events—conferences, workshops, lunch & learns–provide unique learning and career building opportunities that you just can’t find anywhere else.
Below you’ll find 12 reasons why you should attend live events and consider sending your employees to conferences as well.
That could never have happened from an online success summit.
Social media keeps me connected to my peers who are both local and “from away.” However, there’s no substitution for meeting someone IRL (in real life).
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 toughest competitor will be sitting in your seat.
Whether there’s an expo floor, or just a few tables near the coffee and muffins, companies often have tools to display that we haven’t seen yet. Apps that make us faster, less prone to costly mistakes, or give us some other sort of 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.
Learning In a New Space
Remember that scene in Dead Poet’s Society when Robin Williams made his students stand on a desk to get a fresh perspective?
Or consider why so many businesses have meetings off site. It’s because it’s easy to find ourselves in a rut. Sitting in the same chair, in the same office (or cubicle,) or in the same coffee house, can keep us from fresh thinking and new ideas.
Breaking out of the office, sitting in a new space (even if it’s a tired old Holiday Inn conference room), can spark us to new approaches that will grow our businesses.
Break Out of Your Comfort Zone
Going hand-in-hand with the previous reason, live events force you to break out of your comfort zone.
It’s easy to read a blog post 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 that have got us in a rut in our businesses.
If you’re absolutely terrified of the idea of going to a conference, bring a wingman (or wingwoman) so you won’t feel completely on your own.
New Tips & Tactics
The problem with the web is we believe that everything is at our fingertips. And maybe it is. But it’s an overwhelming amount of data that we often can’t crack, or keeps us from the best material. A well run conference will help curate new ideas to help us improve our approach.
I remember watching someone create a Facebook app in front of me at a session just to show what was possible. I remember hearing about YouTube cards for the first time from a presentation by Steve Dotto, and explaining how they would change online videos forever.
I’m sure that information was already somewhere on the web, but the conference helped cut through the clutter to deliver the best content for me possible.
The flip side of learning new things is relearning classic techniques. A few years ago at Agents of Change, John Lee Dumas talked about the importance of creating an avatar for your business, and how it streamlined his thinking. (You can listen here to an interview I did with John a few weeks later where we dug deeper into this topic.)
Or, at the most recent Social Media Marketing World, hearing how important a mastermind group was to Pat Flynn’s success, and how to set one up. (I’ve since started my own mastermind and just recently joined another.) Napoleon Hill wrote about masterminds in Think and Grow Rich, but the concept has been around forever.
However, it wasn’t until a series of events, culminating in Pat Flynn’s presentation, that I realized that they could help me take my business to the next level.
The Energy of Like-Minded Individuals
There’s nothing like being in a room of like-minded people. Other people who are willing to take time away from the office to learn something new. Other people who want to “better” themselves.
When you sit in a classroom or auditorium, you discover that you’re not alone in wanting to improve your skills and bring something back to your office or organization.
That energy is lacking in all online learning channels, regardless of how much chatter there may be around a hashtag.
The Serendipity of the Random Workshop
Some of the best workshops and presentations I’ve seen have been ones I had no idea about before the conference.
At SXSW I attended a workshop on improving your memory. (It didn’t take, but I still found it fascinating.) At BlogWorld I attended a session on YouTube only because I was guilted into it. (In my mind, YouTube was for cat videos.) It’s not a stretch to say that it changed the way I marketed my business.
In fact, I did my own presentation on YouTube marketing at the following year’s Social Media FTW, the conference I put on before Agents of Change.
I never would have sought out those learning opportunities online…they had to be discovered through the serendipity of a live event.
Invest In Yourself
Perhaps this one is self-evident. Or perhaps we’ve already covered it in whole or in part above. But leaving the office and “sharpening the saw” is investing in yourself.
It’s admitting that you’re worth it. It’s admitting that you still have things to learn. That you can get better.
It’s an investment in yourself, your career, and even your company. When you purchase that conference ticket and when you walk up to the registration desk, you’re saying that you’re investing in your own growth.
I’m not sure this is the most important of all these eleven reasons, but I didn’t want to leave it off the list. Conferences are fun! Live events with other people are fun! (The introverts reading this may be rolling their eyes or going to their happy places right now.)
I’m not a master networker. I struggle with finding the right way to break into a conversation with people I don’t know. But I’ve gotten better by attending conferences. By sitting at lunch tables with people I don’t (yet) know. I’ve made some amazing connections and even more amazing friends from going to live events.
Don’t miss out on these opportunities.
I get it. Conferences can be expensive. From the conference ticket to the plane ticket, from the meals to the bar tab. And that doesn't even include the time away from the office where you could be doing “work.”
However, conference 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 employees 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.
Certainly, I hope that if you're looking to improve your search, social, or mobile marketing, that you'd consider checking out AOC. But even if our conference isn't the right fit, challenge yourself to find the conference that will help you and your company grow this year.
Date: Friday, 9.15.2017
Place: Abromson Center, 88 Bedford St., Portland, ME + Online Time: 7:30am – 5pm Cost: $175 – $299 depending on when you buy tickets!