As leaders, we encourage our team members to invest in themselves and obtain continuing education, attend professional development conferences, join book clubs, support groups, and in many other ways take the time to increase their knowledge, improve their networks with others in the field, and build their leadership potential. For those of you already in leadership positions – do you still invest in yourself? Many do not. We had the skill to get in this position, doesn’t that mean we’re done?
Absolutely not. What will make us strong leaders will be our ability to adapt to change – an essential attribute for leaders. This means we need to be lifelong learners. Not just of what’s new in our own field, but exploring others as well. Take the time to network and to expand what you thought you knew. One of the best places to do both is at a national conference. I highly recommend pretty much any national conference you can attend. We all need to learn outside our bubble now and then!
Why consider attending a national conference outside your field? Remember there are two major benefits you can take home from any conference – what you learn and who you meet. Sometimes the skills we need to learn have nothing in particular to do with the field we’re in. Things like strategic planning, time management, financial planning, are not specific to any field and attending these sessions at a conference outside your field may give you a completely new perspective.
With networking, be thoughtful about who are the people you’d like to meet. Who is likely to help you take your organization to a new level? Then consider: what are the events this group of people is likely to be at? Looking for potential new board members? Maybe people outside of your field that could contribute to your board in a meaningful way? Or looking for investors and supporters? Where do these groups gather? Put yourself in the rooms they are in!
Even if you are attending a conference within your field, take time to think about which sessions the people you’d like to meet would be likely to attend. Sometimes, they are not even in the sessions, they are the vendors at the conference! Some of my best connections were made in exhibit halls.
This is the type of think-outside-the-box type of planning that can help you to really grow as a leader, in both what you know and who you know.