Personal Connections Are What Conferences Are All About

Last Updated Oct 29, 2008 6:55 AM EDT

I came into the PRSA International Conference expecting what most people come to a conference for: first and foremost, interesting sessions, and then secondly, to meet some nice people in my industry.

I guess I hadn't been at a conference in awhile, because as usual, it was the inverse: some worthwhile sessions, tons of nice and interesting people.

And really, that's what conferences are really all about. Unless you are in a very specific situation where you need all the hours of a conference to learn something new (such as new laws or a new software package), the real point of a conference is the people you meet.

And forget about measuring ROI (Return on Investment) in strictly monetary terms, i.e. will you advance your career or, in my case, generate some new client leads. Conferences are good for so much more than that, things that contribute to a larger ROI: commiserating with industry friends who understand your problems, new contacts who may lead either to new business in the future or may lead to other less tangible but still valuable career development, new ideas you never would have thought of sitting at your desk, or maybe just a few laughs with some new people.

The trick to making this work is that you have to attend some of the sessions, so you have conversation starters. For instance, at this conference, I had gone to the Mitch Albom keynote, but missed the Penelope Trunk keynote. So later, I swapped stories with a colleague who had done the opposite.

As we head into 2009, conferences and travel may be the first things on the cost-cutting chopping block, and if so, that will be too bad. First of all, as I reported yesterday, jet travel is actually less environmentally harmful than using electricity back at the office, and secondly, we'll all miss out on those interpersonal interactions that a) feed our collective soul and b) keep the machinery of business well-oiled and working smoothly.

  • Jon Greer

    Jon Greer has been analyzing media and PR for more than 25 years. He's been a journalist and a PR executive, and has been a featured speaker for many years at the Bulldog Reporter Media Relations Summit, and served as Bulldog's Editorial Director for their PR University series of weekly how-to audio conferences.

    Jon provides PR services including media relations and freelance writing to clients including start-ups, law firms, corporations, investment banks and venture capital firms. In addition, Jon provides spokesperson training. Learn more about Jon's training programs at The Media Bridge.