What is the Value in International Speaking Events?
Recently, I have been spending more than a little time encouraging people to go to the Illumination Engineering society’s international conference. On the 21st and 22nd of November speakers from around the world will come together in Melbourne to share their expertise in human centric lighting.
This made me start reflecting on my own experiences. I generally attend at least one international speaking event per year. I know I am extremely privileged and it’s not good for my carbon footprint. However, it is part of the cost of living in New Zealand. We are so far away from the larger economies that enable such narrow fields to be viable that these experts rarely board our shores. I do offset my carbon emission when I book my airfares.
Conferences can be difficult to justify because they don’t have an obvious ROI. It’s easier to say, “I’m too busy, I have too much on.”
But in my experience, they’re simply too good of an opportunity to miss as they often pay-off in ways that are difficult to predict. Today I’m going to break it down into three things that I always come away from these events feeling grateful for; inspiration, focus and networking.
When I am in my business as usual bubble there isn’t much that much that jolts me out of my routine. And while this can be a productive mode of being, it leaves one vulnerable getting left behind. International events enable people who have studied an incredibly narrow field their entire life to impart their wisdom on you. I am often left in awe of the depth of knowledge speakers have on their elected topic. Speakers have captured my imagination and inspired me in ways that have changed the way I do business today. In fact it was listening to speakers at the forefront of circadian lighting that sparked my and inspired me to make a difference. Ultimately, it’s what lead me have created OSIN.
How do we decide on what to focus on? With only a limited number of hours in the day and a seemingly infinite number of things grabbing at our attention it can be difficult to decide what things are worth paying attention too. I find that speaking events have content that challenges my way of thinking and the in turn allows me to focus on what really matters. I remember attending a conference around 10 years ago with my business partner Nelson Duder, after which we decided that we must change our focus completely, as lamps that were the light source of everything that we recommended and sold would possibly be completely obsolete in 10 years. Who knows where we would be now if we hadn’t attended.
Although the meaning ‘networking’ may have begun changing, in the age of LinkedIn and Facebook, I believe meeting people face to face is more valuable than it has ever been. I always learn an incredible amount from the speakers, although I’m often equally humbled by the conversations I have with fellow attendees. If you’re attending the same conference, listening to a talk on a topic that would make our family’s eyes glaze over, chances are you already have a heap in common. I have a list global contacts from attending conferences.
I challenge you to make the most of conferences opportunities, as you truly will get out only what you put in.