I’m attending the ICWSM conference in Seattle this week!
There are a million conferences going on all over the place right now. While there are lots that we all want to attend, we’ve got to pick and choose based on budget (ours or our employer’s), amount of travel required, time off from work, etc. When we attend these conferences, the idea is to learn new things, right?
I find there are 3 main types of conference attendees. Let me outline them for you here:
1. The guy who is there to learn:
This is the individual who arrives with a notepad and pen (or a laptop to take notes) and hangs on every word the speaker says. He sits near the front of the room to get a better view of the presenter and to ask questions during the Q&A.He’s the guy who:
- Introduces himself to the speakers (and everyone else there, for that matter)
- Is excited about being at the conference
- It’s possible he paid his own way to the conference
- Has a pre-written list of questions to ask the speakers
- Tries to get one-on-one time with the speakers and/or the well-known attendees who are experts in their field
- Has an overall good attitude
2. The gal who knows it all:
Somehow or another, we occasionally end up beside that person who sits in the back of the room with her arms folded and a smirk on her face who grumbles, “I already know all this stuff; this guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” Typically, she’s the one who:
- Casually strolls in 15 minutes late to the sessions
- Leaves early to start happy hour before the speakers are done talking
- Has something critical to say about every presenter
- Knows more about the subject matter than the person presenting (or so she thinks)
- Has an overall bad attitude
3. Then there’s all of us in the middle J We’re kind of excited to be there, we take a few notes here and there, and we might introduce ourselves to a speaker or two, but we’ll tend to circle only with the other attendees that we know and don’t meet many new people there.
May I offer up a couple of tips for getting the most out of your time at a conference?
- You’re there for a reason J Either you paid your way (in which case you should be the most interested person there) or your employer sent you. Make the most of your time and try to learn something new.
- Find the person who is obviously interested in learning, introduce yourself, and take note of the people he or she is meeting.
- Make some preparations before you attend: ping your network and see if there are any folks going that you have connections with but haven’t met. Set up 5 minutes during a coffee break or something to connect and introduce yourself.
- Try to sit near the front of the room.
- Read the speaker’s bio and/or synopsis on their presentation, and write some questions down beforehand to ask (keep in mind they may get answered during the presentation too!)
- Be respectful of the presenters and show up on time. If you were the one presenting, you’d probably find it distracting to have someone walk in after you’d already started; chances are they probably do too!
- Avoid the know-it-all like the plague J This person will drain you mentally and make the conference a drag for you. And beware: this person might be a co-worker of yours! Best way to avoid is to not sit in the back of the room J
- Understand that the person who is presenting was asked to do so for a reason. No matter how much you think you know, there is always something you can take from their presentation. Thinking that you can’t possibly learn anything new is arrogant and a sure sign that you do indeed have lots to learn J
A few years ago I attended a regional MRI conference, and there was a man there who was giving a presentation on recruiting best practices. I don’t remember verbatim what he said, but I remember him specifically addressing those people sitting in the audience who were saying “I already know all this” and he said, “For those of you sitting out there saying you already know all this stuff, just think about this: if you already knew what it took to make $500,000, you’d be making $500,000, and you would be up here presenting. So try to get something new out of this.”
So what kind of conference attendee are you?
Alright, I’ll admit I’ve become a bit of a TechCrunch junkie as of late, but I think there’s a ton of great stuff on the site that is completely relevant to internet research blogging topics. I thought this particular post was fantastic as Arrington rants a little bit about how money and politics in big money blogging taint the original purpose of a blog, which is to express an opinion. He talks about bloggers doing battle amongst themselves, taking potshots at each other over emotional issues. He believes it’s good for them to duke it out, so long as there are “no loose ends dangling about” afterward (in other words, speak your peace, then let it go). I like his description of the blogosphere, calling it “a frontier town with no lawman.” This apparently happens in all industries where bloggers are gaining more popularity and demanding higher pay for their activity.
As a nice aside, Arrington impressed me in the middle of his rant talking about a pay-it-forward that he does: “…when I see a young but promising blogger, I’ll start linking to him or her constantly to build them up (others, like Winer, Scoble, Jarvis and Rubel did that for me)…” I think that’s nice, and it shows that he hasn’t forgotten where he came from.
Read the whole article here– it puts current blogging into perspective.
I’ve been a telecommuter for coming up on two years now. I absolutely love working from home – I can control my work environment and the nature of what I do requires me to have a quiet workspace, one that was difficult to have in a recruiting office where the recruiters constantly needed to be on the phone. But working from home isn’t for everyone, even though lots of people think that they would love it! There can be a lot of distractions and it is often difficult to separate work life and home life if you’re not careful.
Fortunately, there aren’t a lot of things to distract me at my home. I’m not married and I don’t have any kids, although I do have a chatty neighbor who, if he catches me outside, will stop me for a 20 minute conversation every time. Sometimes, however, friends or family members call during the day, knowing that I work from home and thinking that I’m fine to stop working for a chat, and then get upset when I can’t talk because I’m actually working.
I recently asked some other professionals who also work from home to share their thoughts on the topic. Almost everyone agreed that it’s not for everyone, and that it takes discipline to work from home, from dedicating a workspace and ‘office hours’ to being firm with friends and family that working from home is not an invitation for constant interruption.
Brian Flippinger, a senior staffing consultant for Microsoft, established a rule in his home: “When my office door is closed, I am at work. If it does not have anything to do with fire, major injury, or some other natural disaster, you need to treat it as if I was in another building… My kids (even now that the youngest is 20) still know that if they want to talk to me and my door is closed, they need to call me on my office number, just like in the ‘good old days’ of going to the office.”
Alan Crawford was a telecommuter for 2 ½ years. He said that while working from home, “I made a point of having clear, fixed office hours that were well known. If something required me to flex, I got permission first. Basically I treated it as though I was working in an office.”
This is true discipline – however, I do believe there is room for flexibility in this, as does Michelle Stair of Desert Recruiting, LLC. She says, “I don’t have problems with friends, family or neighbors bothering me during the work day. What I have found working from home is that I work even more than I ever did working in an office. However this is to my clients’ advantage because they know they can reach me on a Sunday night just as easily as 7:00 p.m. on a weeknight…” I agree with this as well, as I have let my own coworkers at Waggener Edstrom know that I can be reached via email, IM, or phone pretty much 24/7. Understandably, not everyone wants this kind of access allowed to them, but for some this is an advantage of working from home.
Another challenge that some people experience in telecommuting is the assumption of friends, family, and neighbors that they can ‘pop in’ unannounced all the time, request you to run errands for them, or have you ‘watch the kids’ since you’re home anyhow. I remember having a conversation with my cousin’s neighbor in Portland, who does medical transcription from home. She has a young daughter who is part of a school carpool, and she was upset because the other parents in the carpool would often try to push their carpool responsibilities on her, citing that she works from home anyhow and couldn’t she be flexible because they have to go to an office.
Michael Beaty’s mother-in-law, who lived with them for a period of time, had a hard time grasping his work from home policy. He said, “Despite constant reminders that I’m at home to work just as if I was in the office for 8 hours, she continued to interrupt me, come downstairs or stop me while on the way back from the kitchen to chat. I started to wear a headset so I could mime that I was on the phone and avoid the distraction.”
I thought Sheilah Etheridge’s challenge was amusing, but made a good point: “When I first moved to Anchorage I had a neighbor who thought she and the 11 day care kids she watched would come have coffee. I tried being nice and explaining I work from home and that does not mean I entertain others who are bored. She walked away and said ok I’ll try you tomorrow. I said NO you won’t. The next day she shows up again and that time I was not nice.” She says that as long as you are firm with people about your policy, they will eventually get it.
Kasthuri Rangan, a talent acquisition director for EFS Services and telecommuter who works in India, says that the perception of what he does is very different there. He says, “Lot of people tend to think that you’re jobless and do nothing but sit in front of the computer and phone all the time. Lot of my friends who work out the office would call me out during my works and I would reject it and they think that I just being fussy. Even my family would say ‘Hey why don’t you join for dinner since your not going for a job.’ Its funny sometimes and its annoying sometimes when people think you are slacking from home.”
Animals sometimes can cause distraction as well. I have two cats that will sometimes meow when I’m on the phone. Alex Fogel, a field and operations strategy manager for Samsung Electronics, shared a funny incident from his experience working from home: “One of my home offices was in a rural area where neighbors had all manner of animals, including horses, cows, pigs, and worst of all roosters. There was this one wandering rooster that would inevitably decide that my front porch made the perfect roost and he would start crowing at the most inopportune times… such as in the middle of a conference call. The professional environment took a hit a couple of times due to that blasted fowl.”
I personally don’t have as strict policies as some folks do. If someone calls me I’ll answer the phone, but I let them know that I can’t talk long and I’ll call them back later. I do however think it’s important to have dedicated workspace. I used to live in a place that only had one bedroom, so my office desk was out in the living room. My computer was constantly in my face so when I was home, I felt like I had to be working. Now that I have a room dedicated to work, with a door that can be closed, I can get work out of my face and separate work time from personal time when I need to. I have a friend who used to have his desk in a nook just off his kitchen. He told me that he was constantly distracted by the easy access to everything around him, so he converted one of his extra rooms into an office and says it made a huge difference in his productivity.
With all the plusses and minuses, I wouldn’t trade working from home for anything. I’m still trying to balance work life and home life. As I love what I do, I often find myself working late in the evening which cuts into my social life. I think if I was a parent it would be easier to do this, however at this point in time it doesn’t bother me as much. Telecommuting is definitely not for everyone – if you’re considering it for yourself, just make sure that you can manage your distractions and get your work done just as you would in the office. I’d highly recommend a dedicated work area, and try as best you can to establish set working hours for yourself (though this is sometimes easier said than done!). If it works for you, you’ll love it!