What would happen if you never went to another professional convention?
What happens when we choose to eliminate professional conventions from our career paths and networking habits?
Do we become boring, lose relevance, and become self-absorbed? Does our Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) push us into bad decisions about how to spend our time?
What happens when we start placing greater emphasis on being in charge of our careers and more conscious and more present about the people we want closest to us, such as teachers, mentors, and those who seek our advice?
If you add up the national convention registration fees, airline ticket, hotel room, ground transportation, restaurant charges, and a bar tab for four meetings a year for 25 years, the total is half a million dollars. That’s for one person. Add colleagues from the same company, even a spouse, and it’s much more.
Trapped in the prison of what everyone else wanted me to think or become, I’ve searched for something more productive, more fulfilling, and more connected to business relationships for a long time.
Imagining a world without professional conferences seemed radical, bordering on crazy for someone who is nationally known as a professional development expert and participated in annual conferences for more than 600 client organizations.
We don’t have to imagine that world. It arrived in 2020.
Thousands of cohorts in my professional network and many more who have connected virtually in the past three years may find themselves thinking through the same, career-defining questions I wrestled to the ground for the full count.
The answers for many of my questions around professional conventions came when I decided to walk away in 2018, go cold turkey for all conventions, and answer the one question on everyone’s mind: Who needs this?
That led to the better question: If this went away totally and there was no way to get more, what would I create or innovate to satisfy just the upside or the benefit of a convention? Addicts of all kinds have asked that question and it seemed like a good question for a professional development junkie.
Dig further and ask the core questions: Can you ever learn enough? No. Can you use your time and money better to decide what you learn and who teaches you? Can you advance your career and achieve engagement with the brightest people on the planet, plus people who “have your back” and will support your dreams, without conventions?
To get ahead, do we need to spend a lot of money and days away from our craft — away from our deep-work, most-productive place?
The solution for a high-creative, high-productive, and “getting ahead” life is being engaged. That means fully present with whatever or whoever is in front of you. It is not about busy or scattering your attention to a roomful of people who will never remember you.
Let’s look at what life can be like for you, in two scenarios. The first scenario is how to get the benefits of a convention while staying at home. The other scenario is for anyone who may harbor the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO); still, wants a high return on investment (ROI) for any money, hours, and influence they flush away for the next professional conference.
First, the backstory.
It’s been two years since my last convention experience. I left on a high note, with applause ringing in my ears and knew, at that moment, I exhausted every reason for going to another conference, exposition, or professional development event — ever again.
Little did anyone know that the bottom would drop out of the meetings and events industry in 2020, because of the health and safety risks of crowds, handshakes, talking closer than 6 feet, and sharing common surfaces.
The good news is you are welcome to see the two pages in my journal created after that final, professional conference.
One page is for the person who wants the benefits of a national convention without leaving home.
The other page is for anyone determined to spend days and many dollars going to a national convention.
Both provide Conventional Wisdom and better questions you need to answer, to make the most of your life and relationships with others.
Scenario: How To Create Convention Benefits Without Leaving Home
Scenario: How To Maximize Your Convention Experience
For all who remain addicted to professional development and networking at a high-attendance convention, these strategies can maximize your style and efforts.
The convention of the future is a co-created hybrid mechanism of live and virtual engagement, fluidly connecting more people through more channels over longer periods to leverage the collective knowledge of the community. — Greg Oates, Skif Team, Nov. 2014
The whole convention culture is built on socialization and building relationships.
When compelled to think about professional development and networking without conventions, we see that relationships are about using your unique talent and expertise genuinely to help others. We learn that strengthening relationships and cultivating highly-valuable, new relationships happen when you stay centered on the results, the difference others see, and feel because you were there to help.
That can happen every day, whether at your office or working remotely. Watch for raised eyebrows when you speak. Create value and the new tomorrow with this kind of sharing, putting yourself out there and generating your weekly delivery of something better and tangible results.