It’s conference season again. The time is approaching to submit proposals to present at the major user experience conferences for 2012. Submissions for CHI 2012 are open, and the UPA 2012 and IA Summit calls for presentations are coming soon. If you’re just interested in attending, registration for most of these conferences is months away. But it’s still a good time to start looking into conferences you want to attend and to prepare to convince your employer to pay for them.
After not attending conferences for a few years, due to the recession, I attended and presented at UPA 2011 this year. I learned a few things, caught up with former colleagues, met some new people, and rekindled my passion and interest in user experience. It was a great experience that reminded me of the many benefits of attending conferences.
Benefits of presenting at a conference
Even better than attending a conference is presenting, which provides a number of benefits.
- You get to contribute and share your knowledge with the user experience community.
- It increases your visibility in the field, and people think of you as an expert on the subject you present.
- It looks impressive on a resume.
- It’s impressive to people in your company and to clients.
- It’s a good way to network and meet others. People who attend your session often come up to you afterwards to ask questions and to talk about your topic.
- It’s a good ego boost. You feel good that so many people are interested in what you have to say and in getting your feedback. It builds confidence and makes you want to speak again.
- You often get free or discounted conference registration. And most companies are more likely to pay to send you to a conference if you are presenting rather than just attending.
Benefits of attending a conference
Whether you present or not, there are also many benefits of attending a conference.
- You learn new things. Regardless of how many years of experience you have, at a good conference, you learn a few new tips and techniques. As an experienced professional, you may have less to learn than someone new to the field, but I find that I pick up at least a few new things that I may not have thought of on my own.
- You hear new perspectives. Working with the same people all the time, it’s easy to get caught up in your usual way of doing things and to forget that there are alternatives. Conferences are a great way to hear how people at other companies approach problems differently. You may not always agree, but it’s interesting to hear other viewpoints and methods that you wouldn’t normally hear.
- You get inspired. Taking a break from your normal work routine and surrounding yourself with a roomful of user experience people talking about important issues in the field is inspiring. I find that a good conference is rejuvenating and recaptures the interest that I had when I first started in the field.
- It’s a great place to network. User experience is a small field. You often run into the same people that you’ve met at previous events, former coworkers, and clients. Since so much networking is done on social media these days, a conference is the place to finally meet people in person.
- It helps your career. A conference is a great way to see what other companies are out there, what other people are doing, to see who is hiring, to network with those who are hiring, and to even interview for jobs. Most conferences facilitate job hunters and companies looking to hire with job boards and interviews at the conference.
If I’ve inspired you to speak at or attend a conference, the following sites seem to have the best listings of user experience events: