I have a couple conferences come up in the next few months. It made me think about how nervous I was about attending my first conference. I was not sure what to expect, or how to make the best use of the time.
I understood the value of the sessions. I was eager to learn. At that point, I underestimated the rest of the value of a conference. As I progressed in my knowledge, the value of the sessions decreased. If I hadn’t had other reasons for attending conferences, I might have stopped. It would have been a mistake, because conferences have value above and beyond the new learning and ideas I can glean.
So what is the biggest value of attending a conference? The people. While this may be a no-brainer to some, I’m more of an introvert with a few close friends rather than a large network of people I barely know. However, my opportunities greatly broadened as I began to grow a network.
Attending conferences gave me a chance to be around like-minded people. This helped to keep my energy fresh and my interest in birth growing. I do notice that the years I am not able to get away to a conference my work begins to drag.
Attending conferences gave me a chance to be around people who faced problems I had not encountered. This helped me to have a much better understanding of the birth world, and to be prepared for issues that may affect me in the future.
Attending conferences gave me a chance to be around people who solved problems in a variety of ways. This helped me to stay open to new ways of thinking about the issues facing families I worked with and helped me to become a better advocate for families that didn’t see things the way I see them.
Attending conferences gave me a chance to be around people who could learn from my experiences. This helped me to be more open about sharing what I learn and where I struggle.
Attending conferences gives me a chance to volunteer to help promote safe birth. Understanding all the work that goes into a conference or an organization helps me to not judge organizations so harshly when they don’t do what I think they should do.
Attending conferences gave me a chance to be around people who approach the work of birth from many different angles. This helped me to see the wide variety of opportunities available to me, encouraging me to set my goals bigger.
Attending conferences gave me a chance to be around people I love to chat with on the internet. This builds and strengthens friendships that are the backbone of my support system. But it also gave me a chance to be around people I don’t like on the internet. This allows me to see them as a whole person and understand more about their view.
And privately, attending conferences gives me a chance to watch other birth professionals and see what characteristics I like and admire, and which characteristics I want to be sure I do not emulate.
Honestly, attending a conference will do more to help you grow professionally than giving you a few educational lectures. You just need to know how to “work” at a conference – and I don’t mean hiring a table. I’ll share more about that next time.
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