Conferences: who pays? What does it change?

So Jessica Rose asked people who pays when they go to conferences, and as I mentioned, it’s usually been my employer. Since her question back to me, I’ve been thinking about it.

First of all, conferences that I pay for myself have fallen into two categories:

  1. It’s close and cheap: early WebVisions or Pacific Northwest Drupal Summit, or if I hadn’t been speaking at AlterConf Seattle. (Which means that activities are cheap and are basically within my normal day-to-day budget. I can afford to do whatever.)
  2. It’s a big trip that’s sort of a vacation: two of the three times I went to SxSW Interactive. (In theory, that meant I’d saved up for the experience and could afford to go to stuff, although it’s been long enough now that I’m not sure about what I may have skipped out on because I was low on cash.)

(Does this say something about what kinds of conferences I can go to overall? Probably. Every job I’ve been at that’s ever paid me to go to something has had fairly limited conference/training budgets, so if I can go to a conference, it means I’m picking one thing, and that’s the it for the year. I decided not to submit to speak at HighEdWeb when it was in Portland because they don’t give tickets to speakers, and I didn’t want that to be my one conference for the year.)

I suppose if I were being especially thorough I could actually go through my conference notes (which seriously, I think covers EVERY professional conference I’ve EVER been to) and SEE what the difference is based on what sessions I went to, or what sorts of notes I took, or what else I did while I was there. But that seems like a bit much.

If work is paying, I tend to be more narrowly focused, or at least I try to keep current or future projects in mind while listening. If I’m on my own dime, I feel more free to be experimental in what sessions I go to. Still: I find myself thinking about work things when I’m paying for a conference myself, and I don’t stop myself from musing about personal projects if work is paying.

I think also I used to be more likely to stick out a less-than-scintillating session if work was paying…now I think I’m just more assertive about not wasting my time.

And that’s the core of it: if I’m at a thing, I’m going to use the experience the best way I can, whoever’s paying for it; and as I’ve gotten older, I trust my own judgement more about what’s a good use of my time.

So I won’t pay for an event that I don’t think is worthwhile, and I won’t ask to go to anything that isn’t. When I’m at a conference, I’ll have my brain on and be taking lots of notes, and if I get burnt out, bored, or overwhelmed, I’ll take the initiative to regroup and do what works for me.

2 Replies to “Conferences: who pays? What does it change?”

Comments are closed.