Conference Going is About People

Is going to a conference (SXSW, FOWD, AEA, Catalyst, Q, MAX, etc) about education, professional networking, or is it a good excuse for work to pay for a vacation?  Some of us might answer “All of the above!” And most of us would agree with that gutsy answer.

I’d argue that if you are going to be educated you are paying too much, and if you are going for a vacation bankrolled by your employer you should be fired.

Most of the good conferences podcast or otherwise freely distribute their content (and those that don’t should get with the times).  Books are a lot cheaper, and the best way to learn is by doing, not by listening to a lecture.

The education you experience from a conference has more to do with the uninterrupted concentration you experience in that environment, which is replicable without paying for a flight, hotel, and ticket, if you are smart and mildly disciplined.

The reason you should be going to a conference is to see old friends and make new ones.  I’m not talking about handing out business cards and ferreting out new gigs.  I’m talking about making friends. Taking an interest in people, not for what you can gain from them, but simply for the pure value of knowing them.

Being together with people, in person, creating meaningful relationships is the stuff of life. The reason social networking apps exist are to augment these actual relationships.

Go to the parties, but not to get wasted and have a blast. That is as selfish as constantly pitching your startup or handing out your business card en masse.  Go to the parties to earn the right to tell them about who you are. You can’t have “the sale” in mind when doing this.

This might all seem blindingly obvious, but be a human, not a mindless sales droid.

So go to the conference. Get the benefit of education that comes from uninterrupted focus.  Enjoy the rest and the parties. But most of all, value people more highly than yourself.  It will result in good things.





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