I was away in Montreal for the Canadian Association of Research Ethics Boards conference last week, so I didn’t get a chance to write a blog post leading up to today (hence why the post is late). However, I didn’t want to leave you hanging, so here are some thoughts on attending the conference.
This was the first conference I attended where work paid for it. It was nice not needing to pay for the entrance, the flight, or the hotel room (previously, I would billet with conference organizers to cut down on cost). It was pretty rad to stay at the same hotel that the conference was operating out of, which made life way easier.
Conferences can actually be a great learning opportunity. I learned a lot from the experiences of others as we shared stories and case studies, all of which I have brought back with me to bring to my boards. I took around 11-pages of notes over the three days, so lots of stuff to review and implement.
Networking is not something I have a lot of experience in. In general, I’m terrible with schmoozing and making small talk. On the plane from Toronto to Montreal, I downloaded my copy of Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone and brushed up on some conference networking best practices. That hour I spent reading on the flight was pretty helpful over the next three days.
I handed out business cards and collected them while in town. I’ve already received an email from the President and CEO of an organization out of the US to follow-up on our conversation about receiving accreditation. This is an example of what you should do with business card swaps – you go in, make a personal connection with the person, and give them a reason to follow-up. If you give out your card, make sure to follow-up shortly after the conference to keep the connection going.
Attending the conference put me a little out of my comfort zone. I could have stayed comfortably in the hotel the entire time and avail myself of the amenities. However, at various people’s prompting, I did venture out to explore the downtown core. I made friends with one of the local bartenders as we smack-talked KW, and I was able to enjoy some genuine Montreal poutine. For my first dinner, I went out alone, but on the second night, I made sure to go out for dinner with a group of people. Meeting new people is challenging and not a natural thing for me, so I had to intentionally choose to put myself out there. Having said that, I also respected downtime, and spent the evenings quietly in my hotel room enjoying movies and YouTube to recharge after the day. I think it’s possible to strike a balance, and it’s good to respect your own personal limit.
All in all, it was a great experience. I’m glad I went, but I was very happy to return home. In the end, I felt “conferenced-out” and was looking forward to seeing my fiance after an intense three days of talking about research ethics.