Last week we highlighted a whole heap of fantastic conferences, talks and presentations going on all around London as part of London Tech Week 2018. Whilst compiling that list, I found several talks that neatly overlapped with both my personal interests and my job, yet (guilty secret time) I still didn’t make it to any of them! Others in the office managed, which is brilliant, but life just got in my way.
So hands up: did you actually go out and attend any of the fantastic events being put on for LTW? If your hand is actually raised right now then congratulations, you're embracing the opportunities out there and no doubt reaping the benefits.
But it’s totally understandable if, like me, you failed to get out and be a part of the conversation. We all have a huge number of demands on our time and finding a couple of hours to attend a talk can feel like a seriously low priority. Worse still, often an event that catches your eye will be scheduled during working hours, which can be a real roadblock for those wanting to attend. After all, does it really make sense from a business perspective to let Anita from DevOps participate in that round-table or could she just watch it on Vimeo later? How much would it even benefit her, let alone the business as a whole?
That’s a tricky one to answer, but conferences, talks, meetups and events really can present a great business opportunity. Once you really start breaking it down, there are five main reasons why you absolutely should be saying yes to conferences, forcing yourself and your co-workers to attend them:
It’s probably the most intuitive reason, but if you watch a specialist talking about a subject that interests or impacts you, then the chances are you’ll retain some of that information. Companies want employees who are interested in what they do and there are few better ways of showing that than by engaging with sector leaders and being exposed to disruptive arguments!
After all, creativity begets creativity and most people will only grow through exposure to new ideas. Sometimes, talks seem to be tailor-made to solve a problem you might be experiencing, but even where the connection isn’t obvious new ideas could help kickstart solutions you would never otherwise conceive.
As our Learning and Development Manager, Daniel Wells, is fond of saying:
"Learning sparks Creativity; Creativity leads to Thinking; Thinking provides Knowledge; Knowledge makes you Great!”
Networking is probably the next most recognised benefit after learning, but the reason networking at a conference is so powerful is that you’re guaranteed to have shared interests with the other attendees. Whilst the free food might be the more appealing draw, the conversation is the real reason to engage; conferences are not just passive experiences.
So just mingle, enjoy the free nibbles and see what happens. Simply attending can be beneficial for brand awareness, building trust with potential customers or inviting people to investigate what your company does.
Better yet, by engaging with other people you can forge new relationships that could pay dividends. Even just becoming connections on LinkedIn equals extra reach for your content marketing team and your own personal brand, but there’s always the possibility to start a conversation that leads to a new client acquisition or business partnership.
I just mentioned LinkedIn, but the benefits that conferences can bring to your social media impact are huge. Conferences generate buzz across social media platforms and usually have associated hashtags, so snapping a couple of pictures or tweeting a few choice quotes can put your brand in front of a whole network of new people. Onsite feed accumulators are even better, presenting a great way of putting your brand in front of the eyes of everyone in the room.
Sure, it’s another slant on the networking element, but one that can be utilised for days or even weeks. Remember those pictures or quotes that really stuck out? They can easily turn into ideas for new articles or blog posts, plugging holes in the publishing calendar with content that has both a proven audience and inbuilt potential to be shared.
Don't worry, I’m not talking about social media again, this time we’re focusing more on the direct benefits to your co-workers. It only takes one person to attend a talk for that information and knowledge to enter an entire team. Take notes and write down key points that will be of interest to others or which might solve specific problems.
The further the knowledge travels, the higher the chance becomes that it will be beneficial. Next time you have a stand-up or team meeting, take the floor and highlight the most salient points. If you hate being the centre of attention, just write an email and get the information in front of the key people. You’ve done the learning, now spread that knowledge!
We’ve already discussed four very real benefits of attending talks, but here’s an often overlooked final one: it’s good to get out of the office. Thinking about ideas in a new environment has a real, measurable impact on our brains, letting us refresh and reset.
Sometimes, you’ll go to a talk and learn a bunch on one subject, before returning to your desk and solving a completely unrelated problem. It’s not that you somehow absorbed the solution from the crowd; it’s because you gave yourself a break, putting your brain to work in a different way, which can be an extremely powerful tool in sharpening your skills.
At Talent Point, we see formal and informal events as opportunities for skills development; veritable ideas factories that enable us to do our job better by understanding the markets we work with more holistically. By getting a better handle on the tech sector, and particularly what it's heading towards, we can better serve both our customers and our applicants.
"There's a load of benefits for attending meetups; the biggest for me are keeping up to date with where the industry is going, seeing what new tools are being released and connecting with people you wouldn’t otherwise speak to who can give you a different angle on understanding things.
I recently attended JAMstack London, a talk about a new way of building websites and apps using a suite of industry tools to create more static sites which improve performance, security and user experience whilst lowering the cost of scaling. By building my personal blog using JAMstack it helped me to see the benefits that it could provide for my biggest customer, Amido, who are often stitching together a suite of battle-tested SaaS solutions rather than re-inventing the wheel. What I saw at JAMstack would remove a lot of the challenges around creating effective, performant and secure solutions quickly."
So there you have it: events aren’t just a fun diversion, they’re a genuinely beneficial opportunity that offer a huge amount of potential for growth. Sure, it can be a struggle to find the time but, hopefully, the points above will allow you to reframe the problem and start getting out to more talks, presentations and round-tables – it really is incredibly worthwhile!
Main Image by Teemu Paananen