So, I can generally get funding for approximately one conference per year. I would have liked that to be Internet Librarian, but I did Computers in Libraries earlier on this year.
Now that IL is wrapping over and I’m reading all the great blogging about the conference, there’s an element in me that wonders if going to such conferences in the future would be useful to my employer. If they pay to send me to the conference, they probably want me bringing something back — that’s totally fair and the way things should work.
The problem is that in a networked world, I can easily converse with any number of qualified professionals on the subjects most relevant to my world. I can usually get it “on demand” and with a few added questions to go with it. I do not have to put my hand up and hope the moderator sees me; I do not have to worry if someone will think my question is stupid; I do not have to crowd the presenter afterward like a groupie to say hello. I also do not have to go to a presentation that is meaningless to me because there is nothing in a particular time-slot important to me.
And looking at the blogs of people who were at Internet Librarian, I get the gist of most of the key messages. I can even follow Twitter and find out some of the not-so-conferency conference stuff going on. It’s almost as if I was there without ever being there.
So, my main motivation for attending conferences is to see the faces of the people who I have IM’d before. It’s a social networking game, or rather, a continuation of the social networking game, because I already social network with these folks. I am not sure if this is a fair motivation for my employer to send me to the conference.
Now don’t get me wrong — there are some further spin-offs to going to conferences. For instance, I can see the exhibits of the latest vendors. This year I got a sneak-peak at LibraryThing for libraries, which was nice. And sometimes I get something special out of a presentation that I thought I’d hate. And other times, I just simply meet new people that I can add to my network.
And then there is the broader question — why should I lose out on great conference fun just because I know how to use the technology to keep up with my learning?
So, I guess I have more questions than answers here. What are your purposes for going to a conference, and is it really an organization-improving activity in the end, with all the advantages to be gained from social networking? What can I gain from an in-person conference that I cannot gain by through technology-mediated tools?