Is it really worth going to conferences?

As I return from another pair of conferences, it occurs to me that I have been presenting at at least 9 conferences this year. Assuming that the average number of working days spent at or travelling to each conference is around 5, and that preparation (writing and correcting papers or assembling proceedings plus preparing the presentations) must be a similar amount, that means that I have spent 90 days or thereabouts of my working life this year on conferences. It gets worse. I reckon that each time I am away I get about twice as much work to do in the week before (preparing stuff for students, finishing things that should happen while I am away etc) and the week after (catching up on what I have missed). In work terms, that makes this year’s conferences accountable for about 180 notional days of my time. As there are only around 240 working days in a year (at most) and I still have all the other stuff to do, this is not inconsiderable. Which leads me to the thought ‘is it worth it?’

OK, I’m cheating a bit or a lot. I still do plenty of my ordinary work while I’m at a conference, and the fact that work doubles in the weeks before and after is made up for to some extent by the fact that somewhat less time is spent oing the boring stuff while I am away. I also (generally) enjoy conferences, though they are not exactly the holidays some believe them to be. Generally speaking, I tend to learn a lot at conferences too. However, the time spent conferencing eats away at the time that I would spend applying that learning. 


By: Jon Dron
Posted: October 7, 2006, 8:49 am

I am a professional learner, employed as a Full Professor and Associate Dean, Learning & Assessment, at Athabasca University, where I research lots of things broadly in the area of learning and technology, and I teach mainly in the School of Computing & Information Systems. I am a proud Canadian, though I was born in the UK. I am married, with two grown-up children, and three growing-up grandchildren. We all live in beautiful Vancouver.

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