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Amy Nelson; Learning Experience Principal; CounselLink:
I just recorded a video to promote our User Conference. When I sat down to film, my prompt was simple: Why should someone attend a User Conference? After filming the short video, I continued to think about the question. I quickly realized that a 60 second video did not expand on all the benefits of a User Conference. Luckily, we have a blog site, so I have a second chance to express why I think a user conference is so important.
A user conference is always full of training opportunities. Training at a user conference will provide an opportunity to test-drive new features and explore other features you rarely use. There are always loads of experts around to help answer your questions and to help you practice. More likely than not, your initial product training was a long time ago or this could be your first experience with formal product training. Now that you are a more experienced user, conference training is a chance to learn efficiencies, new processes and get ideas to improve your day to day activities.
Where is the product going? What new features are coming that you can plan to use? Our user conferences always have sessions focused on the roadmap of the product. These sessions allow you to see the direction of the product moving forward. You also get the context, reasoning and use cases. Getting a peek at the future is very helpful but sometimes there are current issues that need solutions. User conferences have representatives from every department, there will always be someone that can help craft solutions to any issues you may have.
Networking is an obvious benefit, but its importance cannot be overstated. Everyone is in one spot. Your product is represented with team members from every corner of the business and there are lots of other product users at the conference. These other product users hold a wealth of knowledge. Simply connecting with others and asking them how they handle processes and information can inspire ideas and process improvements for your own use of the product. Remember you also have a lot to share, how you use the product may help improve someone else's experience too.
Remember the new features you tested in the training sessions? Remember the product roadmap sessions? These sessions are an opportunity to establish yourself as a thought leader. You may not even realize the benefits of your knowledge. Your experience and feedback are valuable to your product team and to the other product users at the conference. Use the conference to kick off deeper conversations with the product team or with other product users.
How often do you get to step away from the desk and your day to day activities? A conference gives you a chance to get focused on a specific aspect of your business. A fresh perspective is gained through interactions with other users and the product team. And finally, user conferences can be fun. They are almost always in fun cities, offer good food, camaraderie and plenty of opportunity for a little relaxation. Personally, I always try to build in at least one day of PTO to allow myself a little time to explore.
This is the first of a 3-part blog series on User Conferences. Be on the lookout for the next two blogs on making the most of your conference time and sharing your conference experience.