Thursday, 17 June 2010

Ten things I love about conferences

I've had a rather conference-ful week this week with the Digital Learning Network 'Creating and Evaluating online learning resources' conference on Tuesday (which I spoke at) and the MCG Spring Meeting in Birmingham today which I helped to organise. Both were excellent in very different ways and I will try and blog about them both separately if I get time.

This post is just a quick one to share with you (and to remind myself once normal life resumes tomorrow) what I feel like when I'm on a happy post-conference high.

So here are the ten things that I like most about attending conferences:

1. (and this is the best one) My brain feels alive once more! I don't have to have been sitting in a conference for long before ideas start to pop into my head and I remember why it is that I love the sector that I work in. I feel excited, interested and stimulated in a way that I hardly ever feel when the pressures of my email and my task list and my desk are in front of me. I leave conferences with new ideas, and renewed enthusiasm for my work. Even my head of department has noticed the good effect they have on me!

2. Meeting new people and catching up with old friends - it's so nice meeting people that you've only ever talked to on Twitter, or, better still, people who you've quoted in essays and read their work extensively, who've taken on a mythical entity in your mind but you've never met them before! It's also really nice to see familiar faces who I don't see very often, and, because of the subject matter in the conferences I attend, it's really great as well to spend a day with people who do similar jobs to me as my role as the only web person within a Learning department means that this doesn't happen so much on a day-to-day basis as my role is quite unique in my department.

3. Hearing what other people are doing - this is so important that it's acknowledged in our departmental objectives for e-learning because when you work with new technologies, it's vitally important to keep pace with what's happening and with what others are doing.

4. It reminds you of things you already know - nothing at the Digital Learning event earlier this week was particularly new to me now that I've been in a role where I create and evaluate online learning resources on a daily basis, but it was just nice to hear people affirm and reiterate the points that you already knew. It serves either to confirm that you're doing ok, or just as a reminder not to get complacent.

5. Train journeys - sounds weird, and at 5am this morning when I had to wake up in order to get the 7.03 train from Euston to Birmingham I perhaps loved this a little less, but I still think it's worth mentioning. If conferences are outside London, I really enjoy the chance to work on my netbook on the train and do some work-related thinking. It's not often that you get this kind of uninterrupted time at your desk, and it's great for thinking things through and planning for things.

6. Twitter - as I've mentioned before, it was the MW2009 conference in Indianapolis that converted me to Twitter and I've been a bit of an addict ever since. We sadly didn't manage to get wifi for the MCG meeting today and I found myself really missing watching what other people were saying about the talks. On the other hand, it was quite nice just to focus on taking notes for once!

7. Other people's enthusiasm, commitment and ability - I find meeting other people who work in my sector very inspiring. I'm particularly in awe of the people at the conferences I go to who have the ability to tweet, take notes, think and participate all at once (some people even respond to emails and get on with other work while they're there as well - you know who you are!). I think it's an enviable skill that I haven't quite yet mastered. Aside from that, it just really does me good to hear people talking about the work that we do in such enthusiastic and passionate terms. Once again, it reminds me why I want to work in this sector.

8. Visiting new museums etc - as part of today's conference we got to see the amazing Staffordshire Hoard at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery - I'll blog about this separately. Also as part of conferences I've attended I've got to see the Theatre and Performance galleries at the V&A and the medieval galleries there, the Indianapolis Museum of Art and lots of other cool places that I might not have seen had I not gone to these conferences.,

9. I'm struggling a little bit now but I'm determined to get to 10 - ummm....biscuits! There were great biscuits at today's conference. I ate too many of them but I'm still grateful that they were there!

10. Conferneces give me something to blog about - I'm not being entirely flippant here. I like blogging and I wish I could do it more, but every day life doesn't always give me as many opportunities as I'd like, or as much stimulation. So the tenth thing that I love about conferences is that they remind me that I have a blog and that I ought to use it!

I hope everyone else enjoyed the two conferences that I've been part of this week anyway. Tell me what you liked most in the comments!

I'm going to bed now - it's a long long time since 5am this morning!



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