Hmmmm. Perhaps the more relevant question is WHY do you attend the professional meetings that you attend?
We all realize that continuing engineering education is an important aspect of how we grow professionally.
How many of us take full advantage of continuing our education? Let’s face it, none of us has all the answers to all the questions, even if we are at the top of our game and a noted thought leader in our particular field.
So what type of meetings do you attend during the course of the year?
And how often do you color outside the lines and go to meetings simply because they have interesting-sounding material that may, or may not, be related to your engineering field?
Do you only attend meetings that your company will pay for? So how’s that going? Many companies are cutting back on funding for employees to attend meetings, including training meetings. Some folks have a budgetary cap on spending: once you reach it, you can elect to self-finance your attendance at subsequent meetings.
Then there are webinars and e-meetings.
Some companies are looking into replacing the annual meetings (you know, the “y’all come” jamboree meeting where everyone converges in some city) with e-meetings as well. This type of approach sure beats the one where only the top producers’ air fare and hotel are paid by the company and the rest of the troops have to pay to play. At least everyone can get the same education in an e-meeting, which becomes affordable and accessible. OK, so an e-meeting doesn’t hold a candle to the social aspects of attending “the” meeting – if that’s really what you are into.
There are local and national trade shows as well.
If you don’t feel that these shows are a source of continuing education, think again. They are pure Voice of the Customer experiences. Yes, these shows, like IMTS, are expensive to attend if you have a booth and are transporting machinery to exhibit. However, these meetings can be the basis of some great collaborative discussions if you ask good questions of attendees instead of feeling like you need to hawk your wares. Let’s face it, selling is listening instead of talking. You’ve probably read enough of my blog posts to get that message loud and clear.
There are monthly dinner or breakfast professional meetings which typically are on your own dime.
The value of these meetings can vary depending on the type of organization and energy the local chapter applies to these meetings. Also, these meetings can end up being attended by a homogeneous group (e.g., everyone is an engineering or hi-tech consultant) which results in preaching to a choir – and a competitive one at that.
Then there are those “one of” opportunities where you attend a meeting that you hear about purely because it is on a subject you’ve always wanted to know more about.
These little gems are high-value meetings because they make the best use of your time. You are interested and engaged. Colleges, training centers, SCORE chapters and even the local business clubs have these types of meetings. You just have to look in the newspaper or online to discover them.
Perhaps friends and colleagues from the same or rival companies have created informal monthly breakfast / lunch meetings to talk “stuff” and collaborate for a change, instead of compete. These types of meetings can really be thought-provoking. Many folks in this setting will pool resources to bring in a guest speaker from time to time.
Of course then there are the certification and re-certification courses.
And I hope your company funds your attendance at this type of training. However, if this context is your only means of broadening your educational horizons, I strongly suggest that you look at some additional formats which are discussed in this post.
The bottom line is that your time is valuable… to you.
And while your company many not necessarily be in a position to underwrite all the meetings, webinars, seminars and training sessions that you would like to attend, it IS important to evaluate how you spend your time and which meetings provide the greatest value to you, professionally and personally.
You know, you can say “no” to attending one meeting in deference to attending another meeting that, perhaps, is off the traditional meeting grid of your higher ups. You just need to understand why certain meetings are more valuable, practical and just plain useful to you as you advance your career.
Because when you learn something at these meetings, you take it back to the workplace and strengthen the contributions you make to your team and your organization. And you just plain become better at what you do.