Are Conferences and Meetups Really Worth It?

I attended college at what was then in the top five undergrad business programs and top five entrepreneurship programs nationally: BYU Marriott School of Management.

We had our fair share of conferences, clubs, competitions, presentations, and class events related to entrepreneurship, or tech, or the startup scene in general. Most of them were quite good. Sure, we had our fair share of “that was a waste of my time” presentations, but overall, they were inspiring, educational, and fun.

I attended all that I could. I competed in the Business Plan Competition and my teammate and I took second place in the Web Category, I made the top ten in the Idea Pitch Competition, and my team made the top ten in the Omniture Web App competition with our app: Tap Memory. I went to the Entrepreneur of the Year awards, presentations from successful entrepreneurs, and a variety of school sponsored events.

For the most part these events really motivated me to want to be an entrepreneur and helped me to see that it really was possible to do so and succeed. And for that I am grateful.

But in the middle of my senior year, I stopped going.

There were still amazing competitions and events to attend, but I wasn’t that interested anymore. I had come to realize after a plethora of events, that they were all kind of the same and I didn’t walk away from each new event with as much knowledge or inspiration as I used to.

It was the same old stuff: somebody awesome talking about something awesome to a room full of people who wanted to “network” with me. I walked out with a head full of borrowed motivation, a ticket stub from an iPad drawing, and a pocket full of business cards from who knows where.

Those days were done. I needed to build. I needed to create. And I needed to stop going to these conferences and daydreaming about “what it would be like” to do something like that. I needed to actually do what these conferences and events were encouraging me to do. It was time for me to be the one who presented at these events. Who other students came to learn from and hopefully be inspired by.

I resolved to take the time that I would normally spend attending conferences and to actually build something. To create a business. To learn a necessary skill. To launch a website. To give it a go myself.

It was odd at first. My entrepreneur friends wondered what had happened to me. They thought I had gone into some depressive, entrepreneurial funk.

But after several events came and went, and I spend that hour or two at home, working on a new idea I had, I really started to see the benefits. I started to have something to show for it. I started to practice some of the skills I had learned and learn new skills that can only come from building instead of dreaming; from trying instead of learning; from walking the walk instead of just talking the talk (or listening as others did so.)

I created a simple website, and I later launched a two businesses: one that made $1.58 in advertising before we shut down (I bough a big ice cream cone with that $1.58) and one that I ran for 8 months and sold. All three were great experiences for me. I had learned more from those three than I had learned from all the other competitions, events, and conferences combined.

I’m not saying that events are worthless. I’m just saying that you can’t go to events forever. There is a point where they are no longer as valuable as they once were. You’ll have to decide when that point is for you.

I still go to events, I’m just selective on what I attend. I still find it valuable to receive a boost of motivation and to talk with people who are trying to do or have already done the type of things you want to do.

So attend, enjoy, learn, and be inspired, but don’t get stuck. Get out and build something.

 

 

 

 

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