When I served as executive director of a pregnancy help ministry, our board made it clear that I would attend at least one, and usually two, conferences each year. It was mandatory. Non-negotiable.
We know the reason. Our board saw these events as an opportunity for growth. One member of my board also served as a mentor, and because he was a vice-president of a major corporation, he saw the advantages of getting away from the office and learning from others.
Today, their investment still pays off. There are things I teach today which I learned nearly 30 years ago at workshops in a conference setting.
At Heartbeat International’s Annual Conference last week in Dallas, we had more than 1,300 of our closest friends gathered in one place. The only downside? This represents less than one-third of all of us. For a variety of reasons, a lot of us stayed home. But we’re family. We need to be together, at least one week out of the year.
My question is, “How can we change this?” What are some of the reasons we might choose not to attend a conference, and how can we best address these reasons? Here are a few:
1. “I don’t learn anything new.”
At the end of our closing banquet, a friend from California caught me on the way out the door. “Kirk, I’ve been doing this more than 20 years,” he told me. “I’ve been to so many conferences where the workshops were...” and he hesitated. He didn’t want to say anything negative about other events. He finally came up with the phrase, “geared toward centers just starting up.”
I get it. But before I could say anything, he said, “But that isn’t what happens here. I learned so much. I gained by being a part of this.”
Our conversation went on for several minutes, but you get the picture. Anyone who spends a week at a conference like we had in Dallas, if they listen, will learn something new.
2. “I just don’t have the time.”
We’re busy people. Yet we must get outside of our bubble sometimes, so we can think clearly. Just this week I was in Daytona Beach, Florida for an event. There was plenty to do on my laptop, but I took a couple of hours and simply walked the beach.
On the beach, I had fresh ideas. Outside of my room I could see larger horizons and think beyond today. It’s the same with a conference. “We can’t” becomes, “Why not?” And when we get back to our offices, the giant loads we carry are easier to tackle because we have more energy, we better understand our priorities, and we have clarity regarding our next steps.
Don’t have time? Let’s make time. Getting away, learning and connecting with others in the same boat is not just a good idea, it’s vital.
3. “We just don’t have the money.”
This one comes up most often. Finances are tight for many of us, and we can’t overlook this.
But a week in the development track gives us ideas we can use to raise thousands upon thousands of dollars—providing an exponential return on our investment. Marketing insights help us connect with clients and save more lives. And as we gain understanding on how to better serve those we see, a conference helps us not just save lives but to be a part of healing more broken lives.
What is all this worth? Once we see the value of a week of intensive workshops, keynotes and networking, we realize the investment in a conference must become a major priority. Because when we invest in our staff, we also invest in those we serve.
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If we want to gain new insights, grow in our effectiveness and build connections with others on the same journey, we must be “present to win” in each of these areas. One of the best ways to be present is to make conferences and similar opportunities a top priority.
In 2020, Heartbeat hosts the first national and international life-affirming conference in the state of Washington. We won’t be sleepless in Seattle, but together, we’ll take more steps toward changing our world. See you there.