Conventions bring out the awkward in everybody. They tend to focus on schmoozing and back-patting rather than productive feedback and critique.
It doesn’t matter what kind of convention it is. Government agencies, high school leadership courses, etc. can all exude their own amount of hokey.
You know what I’m talking about.
But, sometimes, you attend a convention or a conference that hits home and teaches you something either about yourself or your profession.
Recently, it seems, I’ve had the opportunity to attend quite a few conventions. In October, I went to Chicago to talk about the journalism industry.
Earlier in 2016, I attended the Center for a Vital Community CiViC Leadership program, and I’ll attend our last training and graduation for that in early February.
This weekend, I’m in Cheyenne at the Wyoming Press Association annual winter convention. The two-day event is full of training to help make all of us better at our jobs in a time when trust in the media seems to be low.
But as most conference-goers know, the real learning happens in the hallways, the one-on-one conversations and, yes, even in the bar. As attendees seek to process the information unloaded on them in formal workshops, ideas fly and debates ensue.
The networking certainly holds a prominent spot on my list of priorities at these sorts of gatherings, but the in-depth conversations about progress, innovation and growth tops the list.
So as journalists critique each other’s work and discuss how to get better this week, I’ll studiously take notes on how The Sheridan Press can serve the community.
I’ll also revel in the fact that as of Friday morning, The Sheridan Press had already earned 21 awards for its work over the last year. More awards will be announced as the weekend progresses, but I couldn’t be more proud of the staff at The Press and all of the work they’ve put in to inform our community.
After returning to Sheridan Sunday evening, I’ll leave Tuesday morning for another conference in Atlanta on digital media.
The travel can be difficult. Hours in the car and in airports means scattered work schedules and more work for staff.
But, beyond the sometimes awkward small-talk and that one obnoxious person that somehow ends up in every workshop you choose to attend, you gain something.
You gain tools to do better. You gain connections to help your company and your career.
You also gain — I hope — a renewed sense of purpose.
At each journalism and media conference I attend, I get fired up about why I do what I do. I set goals to do better and I try to convey that to my staff. If we aren’t excited and passionate about what we do, what are we doing?
The point is, whether you find conferences hokey and worthless or not, I hope you attend one every now and then that can reignite a fire in your belly about why you do what you do. If that doesn’t work — find your fire in some other way.
Don’t be the cranky “Office Space” guy. Nobody likes that guy.