WritersUA 2014 Pre-Show: Why go to conferences?

WritersUA presentation
From my talk at WritersUA 2005 (when I was thinner).

I’m going to my seventh eighth WritersUA conference, which will be in Palm Springs. I’ve also attended and spoke at STC, CES, Help University, and other writing and technical conferences over the years.

Why do I consider conferences such a big deal? Why are they worth the time, effort, and expense? Conferences are important because they are how you establish yourself as a professional.

When you take the time to attend a conference, you’re showing a commitment to your career. You’re taking time away from your daily life, going to a distant city that might not have a lot to interest you (even Las Vegas can feel meh the fifth or sixth time you go there), so you can learn how to do your job better.

Conferences help you establish yourself as an expert in your field. That’s because you connect with others who are. You can get information chatting in hallways or in Q & A sessions that others can’t get from reading articles on trade websites. When you take back what you’ve learned at a conference and cite the person who taught you that information, you gain greater authority. It’s no longer just your opinion, but the opinion of the leaders of your industry.

Conferences also provide answers to problems you’re facing at your work. I went to WritersUA in 2011 after we underwent a major change in our processes. At the conference, I found solutions to some of the ongoing problems we had, and I got plenty of advice by chatting with an expert in the field. This information helped us resolve those issues.

More importantly, conferences make you feel a part of a larger community of professionals. In some jobs, we may feel isolated and pressed by demands from others who don’t understand what we do. We may feel our work isn’t valued. When you go to conferences, you interact with others who are going through the same challenges you are. You can learn how they addressed them and get tips that can make your job easier. You can support each other as you go through the same difficulties. You know that you’re not alone.

These are some of the many reasons why I go to WritersUA and other professional conferences and why you should consider going to one in the future.