Out of Office: Why It's Important to Make Time for Professional Development
“Fresh & Profesh” is one of those lesser known mantras, but one you can hear often in the halls of MAG. We do experiential marketing, which means we are challenged to consistently be creative…or “fresh,” if you will. We have to be on the cutting edge, leveraging the newest emerging technologies, and consistently conjuring up that which you haven’t yet seen. Doing so is of course a ton of fun (I dare you to look at the crazy things we Google search), but it also requires consistent work to make sure we are always familiar with what is out there, what other brands are doing, and what the trades and blogs are talking about.
With all of that said, one of my personal favorite ways of remaining competitive is secret option D – Conferences and Events – all things “Professional Development.” Don’t roll your eyes just yet; I swear they can be valuable…and fun!
This past fall I had the pleasure of attending two conferences in one week. So since I’ve done the leg work for you, here’s a bit of a crash course on what I learned (hint: a lot of it doesn’t even have to do with the specific conference description!).
Learning is cool.
Unless you take continuing education classes (which I do and I recommend by the way), sitting in a room with the intention of just learning is not something grownups get to do very often. It’s a total shame, because learning about things that are interesting is really fun. I went to min’s Social Media Bootcamp at the Yale Club and heard experts from brands like Refinery29, Conde Nast Traveler, and Cosmopolitan and Seventeen Magazine speak about how the have grown their brands’ social media followings. I walked away with a serious tool kit of tips that I have already implemented since attending.
Interesting people attend conferences.
Events and conferences are a really great way to mix and mingle with like-minded and unlike-minded folks, both categories of which offer a lot of value. You’ll have a chance to talk to people who work in similar industries, as well as a whole host of others who don’t. This harkens back to the “fresh” I mentioned earlier. It can be extremely valuable to learn what others across a wide variety of businesses and industries are up to, as more often than not, you will find parallels to what you are doing as well. And of course, you just might meet some new biz contacts as well!
Fast Company's Innovation Festival. Image courtesy of Fast Company.
Talk to strangers.
Sitting at a 60’’ round with 11 people you don’t know is hard enough. Add to that a self-conducted round table discussion and you’ve got yourself a sitch. This is exactly the circumstances in which I found myself at one of the conferences I attended; due to a shortage of moderators, table 26 was a sovereign entity amidst a sea of governed bodies. While at first I was a bit annoyed (really, I have to be at the awkward table with the painfully long pauses?!), it turned out to be a really fun exercise. All 12 of us stepped up to the plate (okay, maybe 10 out of 12), and the resulting dialogue was engaging and worthwhile and took many fascinating turns as we navigated a variety of industry topics. Not to mention it allowed us to employ those rusty social skills that don’t arise too frequently in adult life – the same ones necessary when selecting a lunch table in the cafeteria in middle school for the first time. In the end, I was pretty proud of myself and the whole of table 26 for putting ourselves out there.
Get out of your comfort zone.
This is sort of a summation of the above points, but an important one nonetheless. I remember when I bought the tickets to the conferences, I was super jazzed. But then a funny thing happened as the dates approached…my enthusiasm turned to dread as I pictured a day away from my computer, my Outlook, my Guy and Gallard salad at 1pm, and most importantly, a day of productivity. We all know the feeling – the one that says, “but a day outside of the office means I will fall behind!” Nah – it will springboard you forward – so go for it!