Conferences: to go or not to go? that is the question

Conferences: to go or not to go? that is the question

written Sept 29, 2017

This question comes up all the time.  Should I attend?  Is it worth the investment?  Did you like that conference?  What did you get out of it?  Well, let me say this… it’s complicated.

This topic is, of course, fresh in my mind as I just returned home last night following Biotech Week Boston, September 25-28, 2017.

This conference really hit all marks for me.  I reconnected with my peers from my alma mater, WPI.  Karen and I were able to catch up and, even, made it out for lunch in between our busy conference sessions.  We shared stories, challenges, and advice as career women and moms in biotech.  And, of course, we caught up on friends, family, and the latest news.

I conversed with industry peers. Several of my industry peers gave talks in their areas of expertise. I was sure to be there to support them and congratulate them. I had the pleasure of meeting many new people both organically and during networking opportunities thus beginning to build new relationships. I learned SO much. The brain power at this conference literally blows my mind. I was humbled, inspired, and motivated by the breakthroughs and advances in biotechnology, life sciences, and medicine happening everyday around the globe. One of my most memorable moments was the Women’s Leadership Forum. I’ll admit that I’m sometimes a bit skeptical about events like this, but it was engaging, natural, and inspiring, not forced, awkward, or preachy. I met many amazing women from all over the globe and from different companies, positions, and tenure. We had the ability to lean in- to share stories, challenges, and dreams. I hope we continue the bonds and discussions we started. I left that night at 9 pm exhausted, but with a full bucket.

And, of course, when in Boston, the obligatory lobster roll must be on the docket.  This number from the Westin, Copley is delicious.  Mmmmmm.

After this fantastic conference experience, it begged the question: “how do we decide which conferences to attend?”  We’re all busy both professionally and personally.  Time away is a sacrifice on many levels, especially as parents and some would say as women.  What I’m going to do is break it down.  I guess that’s what us analytical thinkers do.  Maybe it’s how I’m wired.  Maybe it’s the engineering degrees.  Maybe it’s the coffee.

Making a decision on which conferences to attend can be a bit complex.  I’m going to compartmentalize it down into discrete factors for consideration.  And, because I’m a bit of a nerd I’m going to make a ranking system to help synthesize it in the end.  Sorry, but you’re the one choosing to read this.  Ha!

Without further ado, here are some of the top factors to consider when determining whether to experience a conference:

Time Horizon

How many conferences do you plan & budget to attend this time period (quarter, year)?  Lay out the options.  Compare and contrast them.  Be purposeful in your selections.  Perhaps if you plan to attend  4 per year and you have 8 great choices, you could rotate every other year been those.

Score: 1- 1 conference/yr, 2- 2/yr, 3-4+/yr

Topic & Purpose

Is the topic aligned with your business, career, or personal goals?  What is the purpose or slant of the convention or conference?  Some are slanted towards learning, others networking, others prospecting, others collaborating.  Review the detailed agenda.  You may be interested in the main topic, but when it comes to nuts and bolts, do the sessions really interest you?  What are you looking for?

Score: 1- okay, 2- good, 3- great

Price & Time

Let’s face it.  You’re either price sensitive time sensitive or both.  And, maybe you’re also just outright sensitive, but that’s another post for another day.  What’s the investment for this conference including conference fees, add ons, travel, and time?  How does that compare to your other choices.

Score: 1- very expensive, 2- expensive, 3- typical

Geography- convenience & attractiveness

This is pretty simple.  Where is it?  Do you like the location?  Is it desirable?  You know.  California or Florida in the winter.  Boston in the spring, summer, or fall.  Munich during Oktoberfest.  Greece, Portugal, Amsterdam, Hong Kong.  Now, I’m just getting carried away.  Is it an easy trip with a direct flight?  Or, will you be jumping planes and zombified when you arrive?  These are all things to think about.

Score: 1- undesirable, 2- suitable, 3- excellent

Attendees & Sponsors

Who will be there?  Often times, attendees and sponsors are listed.  Are these the companies and people with whom you would like to build relationships, foster good will, consider collaborations, or nurture as potential customers or partners?

Score: 1- some key players, 2- many key players, 3- most key players

Now, here your go.  I promised a ranking.  This is pretty rudimentary, but feel free to give it a try and see if it’s helpful.  When laying out your conferences and conventions, you can put them through this system and compare your options.

Total Score:

11-15     Book the conference!

8-10      Consider this conference.

5-7        Doesn’t look like the right fit.

I hope this helps.  And, I hope, like me, you find the right conferences to expand your network, grow your business, challenge your thoughts, spread your knowledge, collaborate more broadly, and foster your personal growth.




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