If you're a counselor who regularly attends conferences, you know how much time, money and energy you're expending to be there. But is it worth it? If you're not sure, maybe you can approach conferences a little differently to make them more worth your while?
If you think back to the last conference you attended, what do you remember most? Chances are, you probably remember 1) What you learned that you're actually still using in some way today, and 2) specific interactions with fellow counselors. It's the chats where you learned from each other or swapped stories about the students you work with or just bonded over the joys and challenges of your jobs.
I think you get a lot more out of conferences if you maximize those two things–learning things you can actually take back and use, and having productive, fun interactions with colleagues.
So the next conferences you attend, engineer it around those two goals. Here's how.
1. First, decide before you even attend that you're going to bring back three things that change the way you do your work every day. It might be one idea or a total redesign of how you do what you do–it doesn't matter. But resolve to find three of them and spend your entire time at the conference looking for those three things.
2. Make a point of sharing your three discoveries with anyone who might benefit–co-workers, students, parents, etc. Pass along your new knowledge and the benefit of attending increases exponentially.
3. While you're at the conference, have as many real interactions as possible. Go to the social events, meet people you haven't met yet, or just spend more quality time with people you see every day. I'm not suggesting that you have to schmooze and network if that's not your style. I just mean that if we're going to spend time at a conference, we should put ourselves into conversations we enjoy.
Going to a conference is a lot like going to college; you have a lot to do with how much you get out of it.