I’m just getting ready to head out to a conference and I thought about why I was going. Personally I see a lot of benefit in conferences: while they can be costly and the returns can often be hard to quantify but there are real benefits to them.
Regardless of your market niche or your experience level with creating and running your own business, I believe that anyone and everyone can head to a conference and walk away richer from it (potentially financially, definitely on a personal level).
What then can you get from going to a conference?
Learn New Things
This is the ultimate reward for me, the fact that you can head to a venue and discover a whole wealth of new things.
Depending on the sort of conference you attend these could vary but the most common things you may learn are:
Whether it’s from a talk you listened to or a workshop you attended there are often a lot of new skills that can be learnt from a conference. These could be practical skills that can be applied directly to your business or website, or they could be more on the level of self-improvement such as time-management, reflection and gaining a deeper understanding of what you’re doing.
Discovering new and exciting trends in your niche is also possible at a conference. This sort of information can come from not only the talks, but from meeting new people and discussing the market with them and from seeing what the businesses attending the conference are showcasing.
Conferences such as Facebooks F8 for example allow developers and marketers to gain an insight early on as to what we might be seeing on Facebook in the coming year.
Discovering these trends early on can help you make informed decisions about the direction of your business.
I hate networking, which is odd as I’ll just about chat to anyone. I just dislike the reaching out and discussing things on a business level.
For those of us who spend most of our days locked in a room with a computer, this sort of outreach is alien.
Still, conferences are amazing opportunities to network and to (in my case) get out of your comfort zone and talk to people about your business and theirs.
Not only can you discover new and interesting people and businesses but there’s potential to find new clients and even possible business partners. You’re unlikely to do this just from the initial networking, but these events are helpful in that you can start to sow the seeds of new relationships.
The insular nature of most online entrepreneurs work means that for some people conferences enable people to meet and talk with their peers in a way that email, forums and instant messaging just can’t compare with.
Most conferences focus around a specific niche market and you’ll often find your completion lurking in the conference center halls or showcasing their products via stands.
This makes conference an ideal venue to do a spot of competitor research, especially as new products are often unveiled and marketed at these events.
Even with that aside, it’s amazing how much scuttlebutt you can hear about various businesses and employees when your networking goes well!
Not only can you try to find out more about the current positions of your existing competitors but it’s possible to also find out about new players in the market.
Ideas and Creativity
Along with discovering new skills, conferences are full of new ideas being showcased. While I’m not suggesting you should copy these ideas, they can certainly be used to spark your own creativity and thought processes.
Even excluding the products and services people are offering, the amount of information you’ll get via the talks and workshops is bound to give you a few ideas on how to improve your business or a new product line to create.
A Break from Work
This might seem like an odd choice to put here, as conferences aren’t really a vacation, but heading to a conference allows you to stop working at the day to day jobs and to focus on the bigger picture.
This change of pace can help to revitalize you, and perhaps to bring back interest that was flagging.
Not only that, but conferences can actually be fun!
Get Outside Your Comfort Zone
I mentioned earlier that for me my comfort zone freaks out when I have to network with people, and conferences can help you get past that.
Not only networking, but public speaking (a lot more conferences are allowing members of the audience to do speak talks), and trying new things in the workshops can all help you break out.
Investing in Yourself
You invest in your business via tools, marketing and staff, so why not yourself? Everything I listed above combines meaning that a conference is a great way to invest in yourself.
There’s always a cost associated with a conference, travel and accommodation and food and drink, but luckily most of it is a tax write off! As such don’t think of a conference as just a cost, but consider it an investment to help you grow as an individual and help you grow your business at the same time!
The Bottom Line
Conferences are an amazing way to broaden your horizons as an entrepreneur and to help spark ideas for the future growth of your business. The great thing is that there are conferences going on across the country and worldwide all the time so whatever your niche you’re bound to find a conference that can benefit you!