Surviving the Summit: An Introduction

by Kevin Cuddihy on 8 April 2014

Today we introduce a new guest blogger, Geoff Hart. Geoff is a veteran of many conferences, including a number of STC Summits. We’ll be publishing a weekly post from him on Surviving the Summit: tips on how to get the most out of the Summit, or any conference you attend. Welcome, Geoff!

Conferences are the lifeblood of a profession: they’re where we go to gather support for existing beliefs, learn new things that challenge those beliefs, and chat with really smart, really interesting people face to face, a need that even the best social media can’t satisfy. Frankly, conferences are a ton of fun. But “fun” won’t convince employers to spend thousands of dollars so you can attend. For that, you’ll need to make a convincing business case, and that case is not about you: to be persuasive, it must emphasize the problems you plan to solve for your employer. If you’ve got a bean-counter boss, you may even need to quantify how the new, improved you will repay the travel cost in improved productivity.

However, persuading your boss to send you may be the easy part, since you’re a skilled communicator and you know your audience. The hard part comes when you arrive at the conference and realize that neither your education nor your work experience has prepared you for the next 3 to 5 days, when you’ll be immersed in a sea of people who are generating an even larger sea of information—and nobody taught you how to swim. And having dipped your toe in those waters, you’ll want to come home with enough new tricks to persuade your boss that sending you was a worthwhile investment and that they should send you again next year.

That’s what this series of blog posts is for: to teach you how to swim those salty waters and enjoy it, while also benefiting your employer enough that they’ll send you to the seashore again next year. In the upcoming posts in this series, I’ll provide some suggestions about how to survive a large conference and benefit as much as possible from the experience:

  • What to do when you arrive.
  • How to get the maximum benefit from presentations.
  • Why you should socialize, and how.
  • How to care for yourself while you’re there.
  • What to do when you return home.

Try these strategies and you may even enjoy the experience enough to try it again in subsequent years—or even to get involved as a speaker or organizer.

Next week: What do to when you arrive at the conference.

Geoff Hart is the grizzled veteran of dozens of conferences, and has emerged exhausted (but mostly wiser) from this experience. Visit him online at http://www.geoff-hart.com.

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