It’s true that attending business conferences costs you time and money, something that’s in short supply for most small business owners. Yet the benefits that you’ll get from taking a break from your daily routine to meet with other people in your industry can far outweigh the costs.
I must admit, until recently I’ve not been a fan of the business conference. I’ve always looked at them as an unnecessary expense – especially since I went independent and find it tougher to get things like conferences paid for out of someone else’s pocket. And, not only do they cost money, they also take away income. While you’re at a conference – if you own your own business and depending on your business – you may not be earning money. I know as an independent IT consultant, I’m not earning anything while I’m at a conference.
So the business or technology conference has not held a lot of interest for me in the past. However, as I get further into my own consulting business and realize that I’m basically available – and sometimes working – 24/7, the grind can get a little overwhelming. And yes, my family can even get a little sick of me.
Given that, I’ve recently begun attending relevant conferences when possible – and when I can afford it. And I’ve noticed that I come out of them with a renewed energy, a renewed view of my business, and some good networking contacts. So, I’ve decided that there are basically four primary benefits or reasons that should be considered as potential positive outcomes of shutting yourself down for a few days and taking some time to attend a professional conference or convention relevant to your current line of business.
Keep in mind, these are in no particular order of importance – they are all relevant to me and hopefully to you and your business as well.
Network with like-minded peers
This is a big one for me as I primarily work from a home office. That means my chances to interact face to face with peers in my line of work is somewhat limited. I have to believe the same is basically true for small business owners. You may see your customers regularly, but your chances to interact with other small business owners in your similar line of work is likely limited.
A professional conference allows you that opportunity to network. Be prepared to pass out a lot of business cards so get those ordered in advance – that was one of my shortcomings for the first recent conference I attended.
Depending on your line of work and whether you’re an independent consultant or not, never underestimate the opportunity to schmooze a little. You never know what opportunities it may open up for you and your current line of work.
Regroup and rethink
Even if schmoozing or even networking isn’t your thing, the opportunity to put your business on hold (assuming you can afford to do so) and take in some new information and ideas is a good thing. You will come back to your business, your employees, and your customers refreshed and possibly with some new innovations to try out.
I’ve always been skeptical about this, but I’ve found that for each conference I’ve attended, I’ve had some take aways that have helped me be a better businessman and provide better service to my clients as a result of information and ideas that I obtained at the conference.
Turn off the real world
This is similar to regrouping, but not really. This one is more for yourself. Time away from the daily grind can reset your stress points and allow you to come back and face the real world again. And in my situation, it’s a nice reset point for my family who – yes, it’s hard to believe – sometimes gets tired of having me around 24/7. I guess I come back more pleasant and easier to live with.
Stay on top of trends and topics
I said that these topics aren’t listed in any order of preference. However, I personally feel that this last reason is the most important. In order to serve our customers in the best way possible, we need to be on top of our game and on top of the latest trends and topics.
Sure, reading trade articles and books will help, but the information you can get from these conferences is invaluable going forward and the contacts you make with professionals and vendors will continue that flow of up-to-date information for the next 365 days till the conference starts up again next year.