Members of the human resources profession are offered a wide array of opportunities to further their careers through conferences and seminars. HR conferences run the gamut from technology-based, to learning opportunities, to networking and leadership seminars.
One way that you can ensure support from upper management in attending conferences is to offer reasons up front that will benefit both you and the company. Each conference has its own benefits, of course, and many will not only help individuals grow professionally, but can be of great advantage to the company itself.
Janine Popick, CEO and founder of VerticalResponse, believes that attending conferences is not just about personal and career development – not for HR professional nor any other employee. She states, “At the end of each year I have the team at my e-mail marketing company,VerticalResponse provide me a list of the events they’re considering, along with why they want to go. I also ask them to provide (and this is the biggie), ‘what’s in it for our customers?’”
Most every conference allows participants the opportunity to learn, so employees should find the right event to help them become educated in areas or skills that matter. “Be thoughtful and choosy about which sessions you commit to,” states Popick.
Professionals should register early for the sessions that are most important to ensure that there is space. Early registration often includes significant discounts. Popick also suggests leaving sessions which don’t live up to their description. “If they don’t measure up, don’t feel bad about leaving a session if it’s not meeting your needs,” she says. “You paid to be there and need to make the most of it.”
Evan Auerbach, Community Manager with Dragon Search Marketing, feels that preparing for a conference is just important as attending, if not more so. He states that when attending a seminar, he knows that there is no way to possible meet everyone and see everything. So he does what he calls “pre-conference homework.” This homework includes making a list of all speakers as a reference for anyone attending. Auerbach recommends reviewing the list and selecting speakers and topics which are influential within the field. It is a good idea to ensure that if more than one employee is attending the same conference that they split up speakers and sessions so as to make the most of the event.
Social media has changed the whole realm of conferences, and both Auerbach and Popick recognize its potential, even if you aren’t attending the seminar. “Look around a room at a conference and note that almost everyone is tweeting snippets and stats using conference hashtags,” says Popick. “Even if you’re not at the conference, you can follow along.” She adds that live feeds, blogs, instagram and other social media outlets allow professionals to learn about sessions they did not attend as well as uncover the opinions of other conference attendees.
Auerbach points out the far-reaching possibilities of conference networking, either live or through social media connections. “These other people, who are most likely at the conference, will ultimately, become additional sources for you to learn about what’s happening at the conference without sitting in the audience.”