Conference, They’re a Jolly, Aren’t They?


I’ve just returned from the #dmwf conference in London. Whenever I return from such an event I always find myself having to justify my attendance to friends and colleagues, the first thing that’s frequently said is ‘Conference, they’re a jolly, aren’t they?’. This statement usually leaves me groaning rather loudly. The first question I always ask is ‘have you ever attended one?’. The two responses I normally get are:

  1. No, I’ve never been to one. I don’t see the benefit
  2. Yes, but it was a waste of my time.

Let me address each of these in turn.

No, I’ve never been to one. I don’t see the benefit.

If you’ve never attended a conference or have apprehensions about doing so, you’re missing out. Take #dmwf for example, over two days this event brings together some of the UK and Europe’s leading social media professionals and companies.

Four main benefits of attending conferences

  1. Learning – Possibly the most obvious reasons for them. Examine the agenda and plan your attendance to get the most out of it. Be selective about the sessions you choose to attend to maximise the learning opportunities
  2. Networking – This is one of the most popular reasons people cite for attending such an event. You get to meet new and like-minded individuals and companies from within your profession
  3. Have fun – Yes this brings us back to the ‘Jolly’ question! Many events have activities out of hours, why should it be all work, work, work? You can also use these events to network
  4. It’s an investment in your future

Yes, but it was a waste of my time.

This is the one that gets me the most. There are many reasons why you may think this, but all conferences are not the same.

  1. Forced attendance – A line manager forces you to attend an event that you don’t want to visit. Inevitably you will see it as ‘a waste of time’. There’s not much you can do about this one if politely declining doesn’t work
  2. Conference fatigue – Apparently this is real, you’ve been to so many you now expect them to be tedious, dull affairs with an agenda full of bad speakers who drone on. To this, I would say be more selective with your conference choices
  3. Bad speakers – You will always get the odd lousy speaker at an event but rarely an entire conference full of them.

Ten tips to maximise your attendance

  1. Charge your batteries, laptop, phone and whatever else needs charging. Power points are usually in short supply and high in demand
  2. Study the conference agenda, identify the sessions you want to attend in advance
  3. Identify speakers and companies that you wish to engage with before you go
  4. Draw up some questions the those you’ve identified in step 3
  5. Note down some personal goals for the conference and review them midway through
  6. Keep yourself hydrated, it may sound obvious, but it’s easily overlooked during a busy conference
  7. Take a notepad and pen or install an app such as Evernote, again  often overlooked
  8. Remember a supply of business cards and use them wisely
  9. Engage with others both face to face (don’t hide on the back row) and on social media, look out for conference hashtags and follow both the host and speakers
  10. Have fun.

The conference doesn’t just end when it ends

Even after the conference has closed, the discussion continues. The new relationships you’ve built and lessons you’ve learned will have an impact on your goals, motivation, sense of community, and ultimately your future.

Hopefully, I’ve outlined enough reasons for as to why you should attend conferences and summits, but I’d love to hear your ideas, for and against conference attendance via the comments or on Twitter. Find out how I got on at the AWS Summit 2019 in Berlin.

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