Matching Your Conference Expectations and Experiences

You’ve probably heard the saying, “You can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket”. It can apply in many different contexts and generally means, “You can’t reap the rewards if you don’t invest any effort”.

The concept can be applied to conferences, too. To get the greatest benefit from them, you need to put some effort in yourself. One of the first things you can do when deciding whether to attend a conference is to think through your expectations of it.

Your expectations

What is it that sparked your interest? Why do you want to go?

The most common reasons for attending conferences include:

·      To learn something new

·      To make connections

·      To be inspired

·      To learn about industry trends

Of course, there are always people who attend because their boss told them to, but there is no reason why they can’t choose to make it a positive experience anyway.

If you feel that you won’t gain much from conferences in general, you might want to think again. No matter how good you are at your job, you can’t know everything about everything. Conference speakers are usually chosen because they have an inspirational story to tell, are doing something new and interesting or they can share a fresh viewpoint on a common problem. Many have been on a similar journey to you and have made many costly mistakes along the way. Isn’t it easier to learn from their mistakes than to go through them all yourself?


Organiser’s expectations

The next thing to do is to do some research on the event. Find out who’s running it and what they are planning as soon as you can. Things to consider:

·      Who are they pitching to? Are you in their target demographic?

·      Will the focus be on helping a specific category of professionals or businesses?

·      Will it be an expo of industry suppliers?

·      Will it feature one organisation or many?

·      Who will the keynote speaker be and what will they be talking about?

·      What are the topics for the break-out sessions? Are they relevant to you?

If your expectations match the purpose of the conference, fantastic! Book your tickets now! But, if not, don’t go. It’s a waste of your time and money plus the organisers would rather be helping people that really want to be there.


Be curious

Once you’ve decided to go, it’s time to take responsibility for your own learning. You know why you want to go and what you want to get out of it, so it’s up to you to ensure your goals are met.

Start with the mindset of, “What can I learn from this? What do I need help with and who can help me?”

Go there with a plan of the events you want to attend and the people that you would like to chat to. That way you won’t be completely overwhelmed by everything that is on offer. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to take all the information in and retain it, so be like a squirrel and gather the choicest pearls of wisdom and store them somewhere where you can return to them whenever you need them.

For more helpful tips on planning your conference attendance, see our article How to calculate your ROI on conferences.


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Many of the themes in this article came from Episode 51, What we learned about expos, presented by Paul Meissner and David Boyer. Paul & David are passionate CA's who care deeply about the accounting industry.

Paul quit his accounting day job seven years ago and now owns and runs the Melbourne-based firm, 5ways Group Chartered Accountants, and his online Freedom Accounting System firm which allows him to travel and work from anywhere.

For the last 4 years, David has worked as a Virtual CFO. At the start of 2016 he co-founded the Virtual CFO Association and in December 2016 his company, Sequel VCFO began franchising to mobilise the experienced work force of accountants in industry and bring their expertise to SMEs.

Together with their impressive list of guest presenters, Paul and David are the brave souls needed to fight through the noise and give accountants in practice the support and information they deserve.


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Episode 51