I remember my first conference.
I was like a wide-eyed kid in a candy store, breathless (almost to the point of passing out) and in awe of everything conference had to offer.
Everyone seemed so experienced and confident. They knew what sessions they were going to, who was presenting and how to swipe the freebies from the vendors.
I got hooked by the conference buzz and the opportunity to learn so much in such a short space of time. Every year I saved my money and annual leave to attend. And I had a ball!
After a while conferences began to lose their shine. And I asked myself whether it was worth it and what the alternatives might be.
Hands up if you have felt like this too.
This post is for you.
What are the alternatives when you want to learn and be inspired, but are uninspired by conferences? #TheLibraryBoss
Conferences are a great place to learn, build friendships and share your work.
But they are also expensive, time-consuming and exhausting.
And sometimes the content just doesn't inspire you.
When that happens, paying the big bucks to catch up with friends isn't something your employer wants to see on a funding application. And it's not worth self-funding either.
So the only other option is to present your work.
Presenting your work at New Zealand and Australian library conferences has no financial benefits. You still have to register and pay other expenses. And it involves a huge chunk of time to prepare.
On the plus side, your employer may subsidise some of the costs or allow you to prepare during work time. And it's an opportunity to build your reputation and career.
Conferences also have a couple of hidden costs:
So if the content doesn't grab your attention, then it probably isn't worth the time and money.
So what are the alternatives?
Conferences used to be one of the few places for people to exchange ideas. The internet has changed that.
Information is easier to find and easier to share. People are easier to contact and get to know.
And conferences aren't as valuable as they used to be.
So let's get clear on what is an acceptable conference alternative.
3 options that meet the above criteria are: virtually connecting, twitter chats, and twitter conferences.
3 conference alternatives are @VConnecting, twitter chats and twitter conferences. #TheLibraryBoss
Virtually connecting (VC) is a group of volunteers who “connect onsite conference presenters and attendees with virtual participants in small groups.”
VC is available at conferences all over the world with particular emphasis on education technology and open education resources.
I have participated in two VC sessions. Each session was about an hour in length with 6-8 people virtually connecting with 3-5 people at a conference (using Google Hangouts). There were facilitators onsite and online to encourage conversation but the sessions are quite fluid - there’s no set agenda or discussion points.
What I liked most about VC (in addition to it being free) is the supportive environment and the buzz of talking with people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives.
VC is an absolutely awesome way to experience a conference that you would never attend in person - either because it is too far away, too expensive or only indirectly related to your job.
Twitter chats (also called tweet chats) are live text-based discussions that happen on Twitter at a regular time. Tweets related to the discussion are marked with a hashtag making them easy to find, follow and participate.
Each twitter chat focuses on a specific topic and will usually have set discussion questions so you can prepare in advance.
I’ve participated in a number of library-related twitter chats and really enjoy the focused interaction with a large and diverse group of people. People involved in twitter chats share a wealth of practical information that often lead to more detailed discussions once the chat is over.
Twitter chats are one of the best ways to find like-minded people to add to your professional network.
3 popular library twitter chats are:
A twitter conference happens entirely on Twitter.
The format is similar to an in-person conference. The main difference is that each speaker is given only 15 minutes to present their paper in 6-15 tweets.
Twitter conferences aren't common (the first one was in 2015) but they are growing in popularity.
Some examples are:
I would love to see a library-related one!
Only you can judge if conferences are worth your time and money. But it is worth trying the alternatives to see how they stack up.
Have you tried any conference alternatives? Let me know in the comments.
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