I love going to conferences. They’re the most productive way to spend your day, even if some think it’s a waste of time. It’s only a waste of time, if
1) the conference is badly run,
2) the speakers are terrible, or
3) you’re uninterested in the topics.
2 out of 3 of those are factors out of your hands, so if your experience with conferences has been nothing but unhappiness, then sad reacts for you. I hope today’s article inspires you to go out and find a great or at least, a better-than-what-you’ve-experienced-already conference to go to.
Admittedly, conferences are a huge time suck. You never know in advance how good it’ll be, how much you’re going to learn and grow from it, or if it’s worth all the time you’re spending there. It’s a gamble. Unless it has a great reputation of being life changing. And that reputation is at least 3 years old. (A year old reputation doesn’t mean much because what if they can’t pull off another fantastic event the year after the original fantastic event. Last year’s event might have been a one-trick pony.)
So, to help guide you all, here’s my simple heuristic for choosing conferences I spend my weekends or even weekdays at.
The speaker lineup.
Will I learn something from them? Are they people who speak well? Do they attract a crowd of smart, interesting people to come and listen to them? Simple, personal, extremely subjective criteria. Think of it like concerts. I wouldn’t waste my time and money, listening to someone I didn’t truly love.
For example, my speaker idol is Merlee Jayme, chairmom and CEO of Dentsu Jayme Syfu. I love her. I am one of those silent, stalkerish fans who knows what she’s doing based on her social media. If she is speaking at an event, there is a 60% chance I will go, with the other 40% comprising of “how much does this conference cost?”, “where is it being held?”, and “do I have someone to drag with me there?” Normal logistical concerns.
“But Justine, she’s an advertising executive with a phenomenal record of being a creative giant in her field, and you’re into sales and technology. How does listening to her at various conferences help you?” Good question. Why /do/ I go to talks like hers, even if there’s technically nothing I can outright learn and apply from her?
Find out the answer in today’s article.
Before we get started though, introductions first. I’m Justine, my partner’s Betina, and this is The Border Collective, the only blog in the Philippines about interning, resumes, and job hunting as young (and really privileged, in case it wasn’t obvious) millennials.
Think of a conference this way. You get to meet new friends, new mentors, maybe even a potential significant other in a venue that you know is filled only with people who share a common interest with you. Bonus points if it takes initiative to sign up or if there was a screening test to attend the conference. Those are the kind of places where we need to network as much as we can, because those are the places populated with the kind of friends we want to make.
Protip for making new friends at conferences: bring only 1 friend. Go around together as a pair, find people you think are interesting to talk to (yes, I am advocating we judge books by their cover) and if you guys feel the need to brag during the conversations, brag about each other. Amplify each other. Be each other’s loudest cheerleader.
For example, “This is my friend Betina, she’s the best 21-year-old headhunter in all of East Asia. If anyone knows about recruiting, employer branding, or even just working as HR in the Philippines, it’s her.“ See, it’s arrogant if she says it out loud but not as arrogant if I say it. Plus, if she does a sheepish, embarrassed smile while I talk, she comes off even better. Tactics.
2. Chance to meet the influencers and idols of your field
Nobody would ask a non-expert to speak about something in a reputable conference. So if they ask a non-expert to speak, rethink about going to that conference. Or rethink if this person is actually, secretly, possibly in some alternate universe, an expert already. I say this because people started asking us to talk more and more, and now I’m starting to wonder if people think I’m an expert. I don’t feel the pressure right now. Back to topic.
Take a deep breath, and talk to them. They’re just people after all. People who have done something pretty extraordinary with their short time on earth, but still, people. Tell them they inspire you, you admire their work, and then ask them a thoughtful question that’s tangentially related to their talk. Everyone consistently underestimates how sincere, enthusiastic praise helps warm people’s hearts in an instant. Everyone likes hearing they did a great job. Everyone. Including you, who’s reading this. So, complete sidebar, but go out there and tell someone you admire that you admire them. Bonus points if you explain in a concrete way what about them you admire.
Alternatively, you can ask them if you can assist in their research in any way, if you can connect with them over email or Facebook, or if they can be a guest speaker at an event you’re organizing in the future. Find a way to get them to remember you. But not because you’re a creep or worse, some condescending kid who thinks he knows the topic at hand better than the speaker does.
This is the most tangible, long term effect from conferences, so please grow a thick skin and say hello to your idols. I promise you, it’s worth that 5 minutes of horrifying embarrassment.
3. Getting some ~ inspiration ~
You feel smarter and more inspired after a conference. I’m not making this up. Science backs me up here. Getting outside of your comfort zone and into a place of learning does wonders for your productivity, creativity, and your personality. Have you noticed that listening to outside perspectives or just changing your scenery can do wonders for your productivity? That’s why we like going to coffee shops or co-working spaces. Or having a productive, unrestrained talk with someone also equally interested in our current mania. Breaking routine forces us to refocus on the task at hand instead of just going through the motions brought about by our regular work space.
I love scheduling little excursions outside of my habitual haunts because I know I’m getting something useful out of it. I’m getting jolted out of my habits. Even if it’s just for a mental break. Museums, new restaurants, going out for dinner with people I miss. Those are great mental breaks to halt the monotony of your everyday. But if I want to take a hyper productive mental break, conferences are my best bet.
After all, being in a venue filled with people constantly thinking about the same topic as you is bound to cause interesting conversations, since you’re all injecting a different perspective and experience to the topics at hand. Just talking about what the speaker just said with your seatmate during intermission can spark a new way for you to approach the problems at hand.
You never know when inspiration will strike, but you can keep a lightning rod up for it until it’s a regular occurrence in your life.
4. Sharing what you know
The best thing about social media being so ubiquitous is that a great quote can be shared in 140 characters less than a minute after the speaker uttered it. That’s one of my fave side effects of conferences actually. Searching the hashtag will bring up a treasure trove of condensed insights, perfect for retweeting and for ruminating over when I’m trying to procrastinate proactively.
Teaching what you learned is the surefire way to remembering and internalizing everything you heard at the conference. Take it upon yourself to be an active participant at conferences. Note down what you’ve heard, connect it with a different talk you attended, discuss with others there on anything and everything about the topic. And at the end, be the one who brings these new perspectives and points to work.
Bring what you learned back to your work and coworkers. Condense the highlights, write a blog post about it, make a hand out, make your own presentation to send to your group about “this is what I learned those 2 days you couldn’t reach me”. Share share share the knowledge you gained at that conference.
Or keep it all to yourself so that you can get ahead.
5. Why not?
Unless your schedule is full of something actually productive, and provided it’s completely feasible in terms of time and distance, you might as well go. You never know who you’re going to meet or what you might learn. Beats staying at home and binge-watching Riverdale. (Although do make time for occasional fun mental breaks too.)
And that’s it for today’s post on why you should go to conferences. Maybe someday when I’m not super lazy, I can continue writing about what to do at conferences, how to use the knowledge from it to get ahead, etc. But for now, I am super lazy and swamped from thesis sem to do anything that isn’t on my to-do list.
Except to maybe go to a conference. Like this one.
Meet The Philippines’ Top Researchers and Innovators at The Materials Science and Engineering Summit 2017!
The Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) Summit is the Philippines’ premier gathering of intellectuals in the field of Materials Science and Engineering. Now on its 3rd year, the Materials Science and Engineering Summit 2017, with the theme “Collaborative Innovation in the Age of Information”, aims to promote the culture of collaboration amongst various fields in today’s interconnected and fast-changing world. At the same time, it highlights the key role of Materials Science and Engineering, in cooperation with other fields, in the development of new knowledge and technology.
True to its theme, MSE Summit 2017 opens its doors to other fields of Manufacturing, Science, and Engineering. This brings together participants from the field of Materials Science, and Engineering, and those of other disciplines and backgrounds, strengthening cooperation, and initiating a culture of collaborative innovation.
MSE Summit 2017 will be a two-day affair, held on March 31 to April 1, 2017 at the Engineering Theater, University of the Philippines – Diliman. It will be composed of five major events – Materials Science and Engineering Symposium, Material Science and Engineering Undergraduate Research Fair, Materials Science and Engineering Inter-Collegiate Olympiad, Career Talks, and Socials Night – that will be attended by industry leaders, professionals, researchers, academicians, university students, and other participants from all over the country. The summit shall serve as a venue for information sharing, showcasing the brilliant works of the country’s leading researchers and innovators.
Registration to MSE Summit 2017 is FREE! Only the event competitions (MSE Undergraduate Research Fair and MSE Inter-Collegiate Olympiad) have corresponding registration fees. Interested attendees may register at http://bit.ly/MSESummit2017Registration or hit the Sign-up button at our Facebook Page. Participants who wish to join the MSE Inter-Collegiate Olympiad shall form a team of three members and register at http://bit.ly/MSESummit2017Olympiad on or before March 30.
Those who wish to present their study in the MSE Undergraduate Research Fair will have to submit a PDF copy of your study’s extended abstract to firstname.lastname@example.org on or before March 10 following this template http://bit.ly/MSESummit2017ResearchFairPaperTemplate. For more information about the event competitions, please read the complete mechanics and guidelines of the MSE Inter-Collegiate Olympiad and the MSE Undergraduate Research Fair in the MSE Summit 2017 Primer linked here: http://bit.ly/MSESummit2017Primer.
To know more about MSE Summit 2017, follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/msesummit. If you have any questions fee free to message us on Facebook or send us an email at email@example.com.
See you on March 31 and April 1 at the Engineering Theater, University of the Philippines – Diliman for MSE Summit 2017!
If you have anything else you want to ask, say, or comment about to either Betina or me, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com! For partnerships and business deals, like our features on Startup Weekend and Woman Up 2016, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org! We will probably post more if we have to deal with other people like a partner event or organization.
And if you want to get a faster reply, message us on The Border Collective’s Facebook page!
If you have any questions to ask us anonymously or anything you want us to write about, drop it into our ask.fm and Google Form! We’re always happy to help, though we may be slow in replying because of thesis this semester. 🙂
Thanks for reading and hope I wrote something useful for you!