Professional development for faculty is critical to their success both in the classroom and in their scholarly pursuits. In general, professional development activities are an important part of any career. Professional development opportunities provide professionals with strategies and examples of how to grow as a person and advance their careers in a positive direction.
Networking with others in the field, getting new and innovative ideas, self-reflection and re-thinking of previous methods, and improving communication skills are just a few of the ways professionals can grow and develop. Attending academic conferences is one way in which faculty can develop professionally and have these types of experiences.
Why attend conferences? Why are they useful?
There are many reasons that faculty should attend academic conferences. Gaining knowledge, presenting their research results and staying current in the field are, of course, primary reasons that many attend. However, there are a variety of reasons that faculty should attend conferences as a professional development tool.
Tips on Gaining Professional Development from Attending a Conference
Attending a conference can be a professionally rewarding experience. Following these strategic tips will help to ensure that you make the most of the opportunity.
- Prepare yourself in advance. Go to the website and review the program for the conference, as well as the list of speakers. Make a strategic plan to attend the sessions of most benefit to you. If there is a presenter that you would like to meet in person or visit with, you may want to contact them in advance to see if that can be arranged.
- Stay at the hotel where the conference is being held. This will ensure that you have the most opportunity to interact with others attending the conference and the presenters. Networking and looking for opportunities for future collaborations is a critical aspect of the conference experience. The relationships that you build with other attendees may prove to be as valuable as the information you get from the sessions themselves. Social gatherings, dinners and other collegial aspects of the conference are excellent ways to develop these relationships.
- Work to build your knowledge base. Attend some sessions that are not directly related to your field. You might be surprised at the connections you discover or the new interests that arise.
- Be on the lookout for learning opportunities not directly related to the content of the presentations, such as information about new technologies, curricular applications, potential funding/grant sources, trends in the profession and so on.
- Do not be afraid to talk to others about your research. This is an excellent opportunity to get feedback, ask for advice, discuss frustrations and learn from others. The other attendees are like-minded faculty in your field and therefore, their insights may be valuable.
- If a researcher or presenter has a particular topic of genuine interest to you or you have questions, make the effort to speak to them personally if possible. These interactions can enlighten you, motivate you, and potentially open future doors. Do not be afraid to introduce yourself, but using a mutual acquaintance for introductions is also acceptable.
- Remember — getting the most of your conference experience may require extra effort and may require stepping out of your comfort zone, but the potential benefits and value to your career are worth it!