I like to go to other people’s conferences

I went to a writing conference a few weeks ago and it was fine. I said hello to a number of people I know, and I got good ideas. But I’ve been having a more interesting time lately going to other people’s conferences — other professions, other industries.

This is honestly a major perk of being a professional speaker, and not one I’d really thought about. I go to conferences I would never attend otherwise, and I get to see what people in that profession care about and talk about, and the words they use. Dentists, lawyers, a large tech company, entrepreneurs, people in health care — just to list some recent ones. Everybody wants to work more efficiently, and have a life outside of work, though the tips need to be modified for people who spend all day in meetings (health care executives) vs. doing procedures (dentists). People generally laugh at the same jokes, though they laugh more when I am the second speech of the morning than when I am the first.

If you’re the post-lunch speaker, you’ll really need to work because people start out asleep.

It occurs to me that this variety is the same thing I like about journalism. I’m always learning something new. One thing I don’t like about journalism: the swag is less good at our conferences than those of better-funded industries. Not that you should take the swag. Have you ever attended a conference for a different industry?

In other news: I had a column in USA Today last week on gap years. Thanks for the interview suggestions people gave me!

Fun fact: In that link above about not taking the swag, it was actually Zondervan that was handing out books at BlogHer. That’s how I wound up with the Cold Tangerines style stuff. Oh, everything comes full circle.

In Fast Company this week: 7 secrets of people who get enough sleep.



5 Responses to I like to go to other people’s conferences


  1. Cloud says:

    Hmmm, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a conference in a field completely unrelated to mine, but the nature of my work has sent me to different types of conferences, and it is interesting to compare how welcome I feel as a woman, what the general vibe is, and things like that across conferences in different fields. One thing I luckily realized quite early in my career was that a conference- or even just a session at a larger conference- that focuses on a field you’re interested in can give you a pretty quick way to gauge if that field is a good fit. I ruled out one area of study because I frankly thought all of the people at the conference I attended were jerks and I didn’t want to spend my career with people like them. I haven’t succeeded in completely avoiding that particular type of jerk, but I think I’ve done better in the field I landed in than I would have in the field I originally considered.

  2. Ana says:

    I’ve never had the opportunity to go to conferences in other fields (it would be a fairly pricey endeavor, unless they were completely going to pay for me to travel/stay/attend…unlikely for me!) but it sounds like a great way to gain insight into various work cultures!
    I honestly find conferences in my field an overwhelming & exhausting requirement. The conferences last several days, have MULTIPLE simultaneous sessions necessitating ridiculous scheduling for attendees, and always run over the weekend so you miss minimum work time and maximum family time. I’d love to go to a smaller more focused conference but haven’t yet had the chance.

  3. Monica says:

    Before attending BlogHer a few years ago (NYC was my first! I also lugged around a heavy bag wondering what was I doing? ha!), I had only attended academic conferences. As I’m in the midst of writing my dissertation, reading your post sparked the idea that attending a writing conference might be an interesting experience. Could you share the name of the conference you attended and/or any you recommend? Thank you! :-)

    • Laura says:

      @Monica – thanks for your comment! I attended the American Society of Journalists and Authors convention. I haven’t attended too many others, though I’ve heard good things about Freelance Success. I may be attending the Asian American Journalists Association conference this summer — you don’t have to be Asian to go.

      • Monica says:

        Laura,
        Thanks for your reply! I appreciate the resources and will check them out. I’ve shared 168 hours with all my friends and co-workers – it’s made a huge difference in how I plan my week and is helping many of them as well. I really enjoy your blog! :-)