At this moment, I am sitting on a university campus, sipping some coffee, and waiting for the first session of the day. I’m at a conference, and loving every minute of it.
Yes, I’m one of those people. When given the opportunity, I jump at the chance to meet with others in my fields of interest and fully immerse myself in the experience. In fact, this week, I’ll be visiting two conferences. I’m attending one primarily, but I’ll be speaking at both and learning at both.
Now, there are any number of formats for this sort of thing. Sometimes, national groups will meet for four or more days. Other times, a fairly niche group will meet for a brief weekend. Then there are ongoing local formats that are weekly workshops or online support groups. Whatever your field of interest, you’ve likely been told that you should be a part of a conference. But why bother? Here are a few of my own thoughts.
- Concentrated learning. I’ll admit that I don’t read as many professional books that I want to read. There’s so much to know! And classes are fantastic, but committing to coursework on a continual basis can tax several budgets: financial, time, emotional, and more. But for a handful of days, you can focus all your time and energy on a particular topic, learning as much as you can. With a head full of ideas, you can put your new learning into practice in no time.
- Shot in the arm. I still remember my first professional conference. I was a teacher, and I attended a national convention for English teachers. What an adrenaline rush! With so many committed teachers surrounding me for days, I couldn’t help but feel reinvigorated for what can sometimes be a tough daily grind. Without the occasional boost, it can be easy to get drained. The occasional weekend with excited peers can become a much-needed jolt.
- Level up. Especially in my hymn writing, I notice that each conference I attend turns into a milestone. The event to be a catalyst for a new chapter in writing. After all, with new learning come new challenges!
- Consider perspectives. This is especially the case for me when the conference has a more diverse group of individuals. Sure, I know about Lutheranism. But what about Lutheranism in Africa? Yes, I know about education. But what about in a homeschool setting? Yep, I’m familiar with hymns. But what about those that are written outside my normal purview? Even if (especially if) those perspectives are not my own, listening to others can help me understand what issues are being addressed elsewhere so that I can contemplate my own response in relation to it.
- Build relationships. I used to take this aspect for granted. But more than anything, I come away richer from a shared experience because I’ve made connections with new people. Sometimes, this results in helpful feedback. Other times, I gain longstanding collaborations. Regardless, I am increasingly grateful that conferences allow me to talk with those I don’t often see elsewhere.
Start big or small, but one thing’s for sure. If you’re a writer or if you’re interested at all in developing your craft, consider a workshop or conference. It’ll be worth it.