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Conferences and workshops: for the creative minded.

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Conferences are one way to continue your education as an employee or professional and expand your creativity. They differ in size and topic but the benefits are vast when you go in knowing what to expect.

Today we're going to discuss the benefits of attending conferences and how to get the most out of your experience, a great way to widen your network and grow in business. Andrea showed us how to stay productive and work from anywhere so be sure to check our her tips as well.

Not only can you learn in a compounded environment, you'll be introduced to leaders in your industry and be offered the (often) rare opportunity to ask them questions that are specific to your story. When you select a conference to attend think about what you want to walk away with. Are you going to be just as smart when you leave as when you arrived, or is your goal to stretch your mind and introduce new ideas/patterns for working better? 

Being prepared for face time, rather than only a digital introduction, is also something to look for. You'll be handing out cards and engaging in real time conversations both online and most importantly, offline.

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Photo via jodimichelleon Flickr.

There are also non-conferences, much like workshops, that can offer the same benefits as a conference. Usually a smaller audience means more hands on instruction and attention - the conversation spans farther from panel to attendee. And no matter how you choose to expand your knowledge or network the following are helpful tips to ensure you get the most out of your experience:

1. Research the content of the conference you're interested in.

Depending on the length of the conference there's probably going to be more available than you have time for, but that's ok. Choose the panels or workshops that you're most interested in and have a few back ups (some times scheduling has two of your favorite topics at once). Read up on the Speakers, follow them on twitter or start the conversation over LinkedIn or Facebook. Add yourself to the roster of attendees so you can get to know a few people in advance, if possible.

2. Things to bring vs. Things to leave behind

You'd think a conference based around the web would be the perfect place to bring your laptop, and while that's true you might find yourself with little time to actually engage digitally. You'll want to spend most of your time in person, face to face, with other attendees. You might find yourself lugging around your laptop when instead, you'd rather just be able to grab dinner and network without luggage.

Bringing along an iPad, if you have one, would be a great digital option with less of a foot print for the conference to engage online as well as take notes and tag websites or articles of interest.

Definitely bring chargers that don't take up a ton of real estate in your bag or on the tables. Ear buds for the times you just need to not be available for 20 minutes.

Bring a notebook and pens - The Poppin is a great notebook for taking notes which are going to be a currency you'll keep for years after the conference.

3. What you can walk away with

A few added benefits to workshops and conferences that you might not be aware of before attending them would be the amount of excitement you'll walk away with. Rejuvenation for your brand or business, new ideas and contacts to engage with. You'll likely be able to take it back to the office and infect the water with your newfound energy. All good things. I think conferences are still relevant largely due to the creativity they inspire in the group, collaboration can be born out of a conference, the next great idea (your next great idea), and a community of like minded creative types using their knowledge in the same place at the same time.

There's also the added travel benefit. In a digital world the gap between countries can seem nonexistent when you're working together - but being able to step foot in someone else's neighborhood and take the time to engage in a different environment will bring the experience to life in a way that sitting through an ecourse or local conference for a day might not.

If you're looking for a great conference or non-conference to go to, I've gathered a few that I think are worth a look depending on your industry. 

An Event Apart - The design conference for people who make websites.
Future of the Web - Conference series for web designers and front end developers. 
Creative Mornings - A non-conference lecture series for creative types.
Webstock - A wealth of cutting edge knowledge. (Sold out)

What conferences have you been to so far - and would you go again, what advice could you offer someone else who's looking to attend?

You might also like:
Field Trips for Adults by Krista.
Reintegrating after vacation by Jodi. 

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