Firehoses and Drip lines: Why I Can’t Go to Conferences Anymore

I was standing with my husband and about 2,000 other crazed conference attendees, chanting and pumping our fists to the loud music as one of the room coaches stood on a chair with a megaphone yelling out “Who’s ready to WIN?” “WE ARE” the crowd roared. Just then the doors opened, and we all rushed in, running down the aisle to get the coveted front seats. I was 6 months pregnant and slid across the seat at the very moment another man was about to sit down. I bumped him right onto the floor! “IM GOING TO WIN” I thought.

That was my second Tony Robbins conference and probably my 10th sales-type conferences over a four-year period. I attended sales conferences, negotiation conferences, women’s leadership conferences, and lots of motivational conferences. I always came back ready to change the world, filled with so much new information and enough motivation to carry me through until the next conference.

Lately, I have become disillusioned and even a little frustrated when I attend a conference. I walk out of each session feeling cheated that I paid money to come and hear the same things I’ve heard over and over.  Is there no new information? I wonder if it’s just my age and the number of years I have been in my industry or is it the fact that the conference organizers don’t provide advanced learning for those of us who have been around the block a few years.

I sounded like a cynical old woman this week at a big social marketing conference. There were hundreds of sessions, and yet I walked out of each and told my 23-year-old daughter, “There was nothing new” and “I didn’t hear anything I didn’t already know.” This was her first big business conference and she was excited, overwhelmed, and inspired, after each session. What was my problem?

Later that evening it dawned on me. We live in the dripline age of internet learning. We have constant information flooding through social media channels, podcasts, YouTube videos, webinars, audiobooks, and more. I’ve just changed how I learn. I’m no longer that sponge that soaks up information all at once, the way I did at those early conferences. My sponge is just constantly wet (eww, that image makes me think I may have germs and mold in there… hmmm). By the time an annual conference comes around, I’ve heard most of what will be covered and sometimes by the very people I have learned from during the year.

social media learning

I listen to about 15 podcasts each week on topics ranging from Facebook advertising and social media marketing, to personal finance and investing. I listen to a morning Alexa briefing that runs through 5 different topics on current news and I read blog posts and watch educational videos regularly. If I hear of an app or informative newsletter, I immediately go and download or subscribe to it.

The big social media conference ended Friday and as I was driving home from the airport Saturday night I realized I just sat in 3 learning sessions—one podcast on investing (Profit Boss with Hilary Hendershott), one on Marketing (Marketing Companion with Mark Schaefer), and one on Coworking (Coworking Insights). I felt great. I felt fulfilled.

The great news is, regardless of where you are in your career or business, you can learn everything you need, and then some, at any time. You can consume content each and every day or you can stand in line, eager, with fists pumping, to get into a conference and soak it all in. The key is to make sure you are making time regularly for learning.

So, which are you? A firehose or a dripline learner? I’d love to hear from you.