The Most Important Thing To Remember About Conferences

In my almost 20 years of attending conferences, I’ve gleaned a few tips that help make things go more successfully. Things such as always get there early for the seat you really want, never miss a meal/break/reception, and drink enough coffee to stay awake but not so much you cant make it through the session. You know, nice, common sense approaches to attending any event.

But here is the most important thing: Do not spend time in time-wasting sessions.

Let me put it another way. If the session starts and the presentation is going nowhere, if the presenter is so boring you can’t pay attention, if you slap yourself on the forehead and say “I should have gone to session 2-4” … motor, book, split, get thee to a better use of your time.

Based on discussions I’ve had with many other attendees, this seems to be a hard concept for people to understand. Maybe it’s because we feel so bad for the presenter (so afraid it could be us up there). Maybe it’s because we think it has to get better. Maybe it’s because we’re all auditors, and we feel like we have to complete the entire test before we provide an opinion. Whatever the reason, it serves no good purpose to sit through a session that adds no value. And, face it, you know within the first five minutes (at the longest) if you have wandered into the wrong session. And if it is the wrong session for you, then spending any more of your valuable time there is no less than criminal. I don’t know about you, but I have better things to do with my time.

My personal record? I moved to three different sessions in seven minutes. That isn’t to say the sessions might not have been good, that the presenter was not good, nor that there wasn’t something to be gained. It is just that the sessions were not for me.

And for that reason, I’ve never taken it personally if people walk out of my presentations. (And let me tell you, they have walked out — but that’s another story.) And for those reasons, you should never allow yourself to feel trapped by a session. Stick around if it’s worth it. Scram if it’s not.

Now, why all this interest in conferences? If you haven’t heard, I will be the official blogger, Tweeter, Facebooker, LinkedIner for The IIA’s All-Star Conference next week. In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to quickly add that I’m not doing this out of the kindness of my own heart. The IIA is covering some of my travel expenses in exchange for providing the content. However, I’ve still got fairly free rein, so it should be interesting to see what comes out.

So, if you are attending the All-Star Conference, this is a great way to keep up on what’s happening. If you aren’t attending, it’s a great way to see what you’re missing. Continue to check this blog. Keep up-to-date on The IIA's Twitter account. Double check Facebook. And keep track with the subgroup in LinkedIn (probably the only one you can check while at work — fodder for another blog at some point). And, if you are really bored, feel free to follow my personal Tweets.

Posted on Oct 16, 2009 by Mike Jacka

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