This is a question I asked myself when I was manning our stand at the PMINZ annual conference last month. The short answer of course is yes they are, but why they are important took me longer to articulate. In the end I came up with the following reasons:
They allow you to network with likeminded individuals. This is especially important in a small place like New Zealand where everyone knows everyone else and jobs can be found and lost through word of mouth alone. It’s also a chance to catch up with people you might never otherwise meet. I found out, unfortunately too late, that someone I converse with on Twitter was attending the conference and missed the opportunity to catch up.
It gives you a chance to hear about where project management is going in different industries, as well as elsewhere in the world. At the PMI conference here in Wellington there were speakers from all over the world from various industries and it was really interesting to hear how project management was evolving and how the same methodologies were being applied differently in each country. There were also some useful insights that could be applied to projects being run in New Zealand.
You can often get answers to questions that you personally have been unable to answer. At these events there are so many people that it is likely someone you know will be able to introduce you to someone who has solved the same or a similar problem keeping you up at night.
More frivolously, you get some great swag and less frivolously, if you’re PMI certified, it gives you professional development units (PDUs) to put towards maintaining certification.
All in all, even with the cost and time involved, I think attending conferences is a good use of a project manager’s time.
So look out for me at your next conference and come and say hi, and let’s compare notes – and our swag!