Although I am partial to one annual training conference, I will not be highlighting the attributes in this posting for any particular conference over another. In my opinion they all offer excellent opportunities to learn from others, network with peers and kill a lot of time if no one is held accountable.
I bet you didn’t see that last feature coming did you? I was a senior trainer the first time I attended a national conference and I was like a kid in a candy shop. I was so mesmerized by the speakers and in awe of the place that I tried to attend everything. I spent countless hours in the expo area learning about every product and service available. The difference I can bet from my attendance and most of the others attending was the expected return on the investment for sending me.
Prior to the conference, my manager emailed a link to the sessions and I was to give her a plan for everyday of the event. I could choose what I went to see and attend, but I was not given complete freedom to do anything I desired. In many cases she suggested alternative sessions, and I understood I was to return a findings report after the conference was over.
This manager was instrumental in training me how to be a performance consultant later on, so I now see that some of the outcomes were to get some practice on writing up a findings report. Anyhow, I knew what I would need to do after I got back, so I took very good notes and I participated and listened better than I normally would. Sadly, the next time I attended a training conference I didn’t report to the same manager and my current manager could have cared less about my time being accountable.
Years later as a Chief Learning Officer, with a desire to grow the professional training skills of my team, I encouraged attending training conferences for the people looking for a rounded education. Yet I remembered the value I personally received from an “accountable-manager” and I required the same initial planning and a returning report from everyone. I got the same initial push back, but the returning employee had a different point of view. I even had one person that could not put together a plan because they could not find anything of interest. We saved a lot of money not sending him to that conference and instead found another professional development activity he was able to find beneficial.
Today’s conferences are even more expensive and the travel costs have gone up too, so I encourage all of you to put conditions on employees attending a conference.