If you’ve been reading this blog and TheIntegratedLab.com, you know that I’m already planning to attend the SmartLab Exchange 2011 and I will share my plan for 2011 regarding the events I will attend and participate in.
Why Bother Going to an Out-of-Town Event?
If you have read previous posts on the subject, you know I urge people to pick a good in-person conference to attend. People who have attended some of the excellent conferences will tell you that they learn more by the interaction and make better long-term connections with people that are doing similar things to what they would like to do. The problem I now face, though, is that I’ve been doing some of these things so long that I’ve done a lot of things people speak about, and I’ve been to so many of these conferences that I’ve heard many of these topics spoken about quite a number of times. Ironically, I suddenly find myself invited to speak at a multitude of conferences. But most of them will not end up providing me with a learning experience. Additionally, with the high cost of travel and flight cost projected to greatly rise, this year, I have less reason to go.
However, learning isn’t the only reason I attend these conferences. I also like to think that if I participate in these events that I’m helping others to learn, too. But when I go to these events and speak to a handful of people, I have started to realize that I’m spending quite a lot of money to help a small number of people and it’s not an efficient way to help anyone and that I’d seriously deteriorate my financial situation if I used this as my model.
So, for 2011, I have decided to seriously cut back on the conferences I attend. For the Spring conference season, I am only attending the SmartLab Exchange (http://www.smartlabexchange.com/Event.aspx?id=369178) (the Fall season is too far away to comment on). However, I’m putting all the time and effort I would have spent on several conferences into just that single event, hoping that my efforts will make a significant difference, versus spreading myself among quite a few events where I’d make little difference in any single one. I’ve picked the SmartLab Exchange because it is one of the events where I will have the opportunity to learn something. But more important than that, it is because SmartLab offered me the opportunity to get more involved with the event and getting that kind of opportunity is a rare thing. Last year, I was asked to be the SmartLab event Chair. It was an extremely positive experience. I found that that position gave me the opportunity to truly encourage people to learn from each other. This year, SmartLab has asked me to be a member of their Advisory Board and has decided to make the Advisory Board something more than an honorary set of positions. They have us working to drive the focus of the conference and other meaningful activities. It leaves me feeling like I can really make a difference in this conference and, hopefully, in our industry if the people that attend the conference go back to their desks with a better understanding of our challenges for the coming years.
Normally, I only attend Pittcon (http://www.pittcon.org/) when it is in Chicago, as that is the area I am originally from (despite the fact that I tell everyone it’s because I love the Chicago weather in March 😉 ). But I lived in Georgia and had planned to attend this year’s event since I felt a bit nostalgic about visiting the area. Also (and the actual reason I’m mentioning this), I had told a number of people in the industry that I would see them at this event but you will notice that I said I was only attending SmartLab. I changed my mind about Pittcon because my networking session was not accepted.
The last networking session I did at Pittcon went well and the attendees seemed enthusiastic about it. I carefully put together a new abstract that would be in the same spirit as the last one, but had updated the topics to be those that are currently of most interest. However, the conference told me that they had to turn it down due to space and other considerations, unfortunately. Thus, since I’ve no other activities to perform at this event, I don’t have a reason to attend, which is why I have decided not to attend, after all.
In the past year or two, I had offered to give my talks from the big conferences to local groups and companies, so that I could try my talks on a live audience and adjust them, and they could see a “big conference” talk without the travel costs. I don’t currently have any such talks that I need guinea pigs for, but if a local group or company would like to hear me speak, I’m willing to do it as long as it’s not far-enough away that I would need to consider travel costs. The last group I spoke to before leaving the Boston area was Millennium Pharmaceuticals and they were a joy to speak to. Not only were they just a few minutes from my house, but they were interactive and interested, asking a lot of questions and driving much discussion on the topic. I enjoyed that.