Why Conferences Matter

Attending conferences is not only good for your professional development and career, but it enables you to be a more valuable resource to your organisation

I recently attended and contributed to a major CIO conference. I was fortunate to meet many new people and have conversations with many old friends and colleagues. This experience reminded me of a number of lessons that all of us can take away from these types of events.

· Regardless of how long you’ve been in the IT industry, you should never stop learning. I learned a great deal about gamification and crowdsourcing, which are two topics I was somewhat familiar with but hadn’t given a great deal of thought to regarding how we could leverage them. The opportunity to unhook from work and attend a conference got my brain working on ways we can use these tools for our competitive advantage.

You can always be a teacher. I had the privilege of being one of a dozen CIOs who were asked to act as mentors in a leadership session in which attendees could spend a half-hour at a table with three different CIOs (think speed dating for IT executives… ha ha!). It was tremendously rewarding to share some thoughts and lessons with these talented IT executives and see them become inspired by this new knowledge, which, I hope, will support their leadership development.

· Networking is an important thing to do, but as I always remind my coaching clients, it is less about being the life of the party and more about being genuinely interested in what other people are doing and finding ways to add value for them, as opposed to looking for ways that they can help you.

· I had forgotten how inspiring it is to leave the day-to-day work behind and to focus on new ideas and perspectives. I see too many people at conferences spending their time talking on their iPhone, “putting out fires.” I feel very fortunate to have a talented team who is more than capable of keeping the ship afloat, affording me the opportunity to learn new things and bring back different ideas and perspectives for the team to consider.

· Finally, a change of scenery is sometimes a healthy way to shake off the rust and make you feel re-energized and refocused. I’m reminded of Jimmy Buffett’s song “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes.” Sometimes it’s just good to leave behind the usual grind to get a new view on life.

· We all face the same challenges, and having a community to support each other and learn from each other is an invaluable resource.

When was the last time you attended a conference or workshop? Are you “too busy”? Prioritizing your professional and leadership development is not only good for you and your career, but it also enables you to be a more valuable resource to your organization. Many people spend more time planning their vacations than they do planning their careers. Your professional development needs to be a top priority, and no one will care more about investing in it than you do.

About the Author

Larry Bonfante is CIO of the United States Tennis Association and founder of CIO Bench Coach, LLC, an executive coaching practice for IT executives. He is also author of Lessons in IT Transformation, published by John Wiley & Sons. He can be reached at Larry@CIOBenchCoach.com.

-This article was first published in CIO Insight. For more stories please visit www.cioinsight.com.

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