“Sci-fi conventions are probably the most fun,
the most out-of-the-box, entertaining week
or weekend you’ve ever had in your life.”
— Richard Hatch, Captain Apollo in the
original Battlestar Galactica
Attending a conference or convention can be one of the most enlivening experiences in the life of an aficionado. New members of a group can get a quick and complete introduction to the big picture of their new affiliation by attending a convention. More experienced members can gain new insights and put faces with the names they have heard about for years. Very committed members have the opportunity to share their point of view and influence the future of the organization. Travel agents only rarely benefit from convention or conference travel* but because I believe everyone should expand her or his horizons, I encourage you to try it.
One great benefit of conferences is that you get to spend time with other people who have similar interests. People who share a peculiar hobby might be rare in the general population but at a conference they are everywhere. They talk your language and are already up to speed on current controversies. This can be very heartening to the lonely activist or closet enthusiast! Conventions and conferences usually have a shopping opportunity included because this is where the really good customers are. This is the place to find a fabulous selection of equipment, supplies, and reading material you usually would have to order without touching it first.
Conferences and conventions also offer unique opportunities to see and hear the best people your field has to offer. Celebrities, big names, and unique talents will come to a convention of 4000 people. They will not come to your corner market or local chapter meeting.
Depending on your level of investment, the best part of a convention can be the opportunity to affect the future of the organization. Attending a conference as a selected, voting delegate is much different from being a first-time, shopping, and class-attending member. Your interest level and commitment run deeper, and you have responsibilities to fulfill. Enthusiastic participation on this level increases the personal investment of the member and improves the fabric of the entire organization. Business meetings at the official policy-making meeting of an organization can be contentious, draining or inspiring, but they almost always feel like they were worth the trip.
If you have the opportunity, I recommend attending a conference or convention relevant to your life. It will expand your mind, increase your appreciation for the interest, and will probably bring benefits you would not have anticipated.
The fact that we do hear about church denominations when they disagree sharply at their policy-setting conferences underscores the importance of those meetings. Churches and other community service organizations have fallen on lean times in recent decades, and we could all benefit from increased participation by at least a few of us. (See Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community for more on this.) We are indebted to the steadfast members of groups we used to hear more about (Lions, Rotary, PTA, League of Women Voters). Let’s not leave them to starve for lack of interest and support.
I have put in many hours (using my powerful sitting muscles) participating in annual regional conferences of our church and the annual Virtuoso travel week in Las Vegas. This year I am switching gears to become a “first-time, shopping, and class-attending member” at the American Sewing Guild conference in Arlington VA. My sewing sister encouraged me to join her, so we will make the event a combination conference and girls getaway. I encourage you to connect to something in a new way, too.
* Conference and conventions are often held in very attractive locations – BUT hotel space is usually block space at a desirable rate to be booked by participants directly. If you are part of a delegation, your air travel might be controlled by someone other than your usual travel agent. If you want to travel independently in the area before or after the conference, I would be happy to help you make plans.
Boundaries divide. Travel unites.
1 August 2013