2013-05-08 07.02.17

Conferences force us to sit next to people we don’t know, to interact during exercises and maybe even have a conversation that would not happen if you were watching a webinar in your cube.  Professional conferences force attendees to step outside of their comfort zone. Even if it is a tiny step, it can possibly change how we perceive the world.

Shifting outside of our comfort zone, a state of mind without a sense of risk, makes it easier see things differently. Our comfort zone can be limiting, because it insulates you from perceiving change. Dr. Bill Joiner, in his keynote at the Scrum Gathering, Las Vegas 2013, suggested that today’s managers must have the ability to achieve sustained success in a rapidly changing environment or they won’t survive. I translate that to mean that comfort zones are a thing of the past.

In person professional conferences are a tool to challenge us intellectually and provide a platform for changing how we think about our professional challenges. For example:

  • Presentations that challenge orthodoxy that wouldn’t draw as mass-market webinars.
  • Free form programming such as Open Spaces or Un-conferences that open the lectern to anyone with an idea or a question.
  • Access to experts for formal and informal conversations.

Regardless of your profession, not challenging ourselves to move outside of our comfort zone will make us intellectually lazy.  Without challenges we can’t hope to raise our game to meet the future.  Attending professional conferences and benefiting from not only the presentations but from the interactions is a powerful tool to meet the challenges of tomorrow’s workplace.