Monday, December 10, 2012

Five Reasons to Plan a Professional Conference

I was recently named registration chair for a regional coaching conference to be held this summer, and I couldn't be more thrilled with this opportunity. See, I love attending conferences: networking with other professionals, engaging in informative education sessions, learning new skills, staying abreast with industry trends...they serve to "light my professional fire." But being on the planning team for a conference boosts this even further. Why should you consider helping to plan a professional conference?

In-depth networking: It's one thing to meet someone at a conference and have a series of nice conversations over lunch or during an educational program. But planning a conference enables you to get to know a set of professionals sooner, longer, and the quality of your interactions are more in-depth. They get a sense of you as a professional: your interests, your drive,  your passion, and your experience. The relationships you make can last you a lifetime, and those relationships can result in wonderful career opportunities for you and for them.

Solve new problems: In the workplace, the problems you solve can become too familiar after some time, with the same issues being tackled by the same individuals and groups. Planning a conference creates a "shock" to your system where the problems are newer, the environment fresh, and you are challenged in different ways.

Use different skills: Similar to the point above,  you become used to using a certain set of skills in your current occupation. When planning a conference, however, you employ new or different skills to tackle the new problems you are confronted with. In my role as registration chair, I see spreadsheets, technology-issues, and essential communication between myself and other conference attendees in my future. I look forward to doing something different and in a different context in service of my professional community.

Resume booster: Helping to plan a conference should most certainly go on your resume as a professional development activity. The initiative you conveyed, accomplishments you achieved, skills utilized, and problems solved help to show you in another professional lens, one that you want to profile to future employers.

Free or discounted registration: It isn't uncommon to receive free or discounted registration for a conference when on the planning committee. This is a nice perk, but don't let it be the primary driving factor of why you participate: you will be disappointed quickly because the time you put in to plan doesn't begin to cover the costs. Rather, see what you are doing in light of the first three points. You'll be happier for it, and the registration will simply be the cherry on top of the professional sundae you've created.

So what are you waiting for? Contact a professional organization in your field today, find out when their next conference is, and volunteer!

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