WP Remix

19
Jul

I returned late last week from an annual gathering of fundraising professionals and, as usual, I feel refreshed and full of new ideas.  Both the breakout and general sessions were interesting, full of lively debate and provided more than a few take-home items that can be implemented in my own shop.  Our hosts were wonderful, and everyone agreed it was a great event.

Yet I feel a bit sorry for those who missed out on the best opportunities to learn from their peers.  You see, I find that at just about every conference I attend the best ideas are shared not by a presenter or at a conference table.  They’re shared over dinner, a glass of wine (or tequila) or in some other social setting.  And many folks just don’t take advantage of these great networking situations.

This particular conference is one of my favorites because I’ve known some of the attendees for nearly 20 years.  Some are my oldest friends and at at each conference we welcome others who are new to the business or simply new to our little slice of the fundraising world.  We routinely gather at lunch, dinner, hallways, watering holes and anywhere else we can to share ideas, ask for help with challenges we are facing, or just to let off a little steam.  Each person brings new ideas, new insights and more than a few laughs. 

Those choosing not to join their colleagues for dinner or otherwise are missing not only a great time, but a great chance to learn from others in similar positions.  Whether they order room service or only hang out with a few people from their own institutions, they’re shorting themselves of one of the best parts of any conference.  They’re the wallflowers of the 8th grade dance.  They’re present, but they’re missing all the action.  You see the people you work with every day.  Do you really need to go away to a conference only to have dinner with the same old crowd?!?!?

The friendships and partnerships that are formed during the social time at a conference have benefits that last long after the last attendee departs.  I’m confident that I can call any one of numerous colleagues I’ve met over the years to ask for advice or to bounce a crazy idea off them.  And I love it when they do the same.  I cherish our continuing friendships by phone and email, even when miles apart, and look forward to the next time I’ll have the chance to be with them in person.   I like to hear about their families, vacations, personal and professional triumphs and more.  One even owes me a CD of his band but it never seems forthcoming.  You know who you are!

So my challenge to you is to get out of your hotel room and spend some time with others at your next conference.  Don’t worry about checking your email, the great movies on pay-per-view or getting 16 hours of sleeep.  Put yourself out there and make a few new friends to add to your professional network.

I was once told that as long as I brought home 3-4 concrete ideas to help my program improve, I probably got my money’s worth from a conference.  I’m going to add to that.  Make 3-4 new friends too.  They’ll probably last a whole lot longer.

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