Industry conferences are one of my favorite resources for professional development. They are an opportunity to step away from our day-to-day workplace responsibilities (as much as we can) and to immerse ourselves fully into our field, and our professional development. I love conferences as they give me the chance to network and share with peers, I learn about changes that will impact my work, and I have the opportunity to strengthen and enhance my skill set.
There are always certain topics that I’m especially interested in learning more about. These topics may be driven by a workplace project, or they may simply be a personal learning desire. I usually target sessions in these topics when I plan my agenda. When possible though, I will usually look for an opportunity to take a “deeper dive” into these topics, and a great way to do that is by attending a pre-conference program.
I find pre-conference programs to be an excellent resource for a number of reasons. For one, a full-day workshop provides a much more detailed exploration on a topic than is possible during a traditional conference session. Pre-conference programs are also a great way of saving money, as they capitalize on existing travel expenses related to the conference. I always found it easier to get approval for a pre-conference program (as part of an already-approved conference registration) than it was to get approval for a separate isolated workshop.
While the actual structured learning from a pre-conference program is of tremendous value to me, I also find other valued side-benefits. One of my favorites is the relationships that are formed in the program. Strong connections can be built during a full-day pre-conference program, and those relationships carry over to and can help you get more from the full conference. Some of the strongest professional relationships I have today started in a pre-conference program.
I think the main reason I like attending pre-conference programs is the wide selection of industry leaders these sessions give you have access to. Consider the pre-conference certificate programs at this year’s DevLearn 2013 Conference and Expo, which includes a host of leading industry experts, including:
- Kevin Thorn (Visual Design)
- Koreen Olbrish Pagano (Immersive Learning)
- Ron Price (Articulate Storyline)
- Julie Dirksen (User Experience Design)
- Karl Kapp & Sharon Boller (Designing Learning Games)
- Lance Dublin (Developing your Learning Strategy)
- Clark Quinn (mLearning)
- Mike Hruska & Neil Lasher (Experience API)
These are just a few of over 20 different pre-conference programs available at DevLearn. With each one exploring a different topic, it’s likely you’ll find something that interests you and/or applies to your work. The opportunity to allocate time towards professional development at a conference is extremely valuable, and we should always be looking at ways to make it as productive as possible. Pre-conference programs offer a great way to enhance and extend your conference experience, and shape what’s next for your professional development.