There are so many ways to learn and advance your skills, especially with all the online tools these days. You can read a blog post, take an online course, listen to a podcast, watch a webinar or YouTube videos, etc. So why would you want to attend a conference? Do not worry, this is exactly what I thought until I attended one.
In the fall of 2016, I attended the 26th annual MN GIS/LIS Consortium that was held in Duluth, MN (GIS = Geographic Information Science; LIS = Land Information System). It was a 3-day event with a variety of workshops, small and large group presentations, and an exhibitors hall. I was required to attend because of my job, and I was excited to attend my first conference, but I will admit that I was a little hesitant. To be honest, my mindset before the conference was pretty much that I have to wake up early to waste 3 days of my time sitting and listening to boring presentations. But it turned out to be an eye-opening event about all the different areas and companies within my area of study. Now, I am going to take advantage of all of the conferences I can and here’s why!
At conferences, you get a chance to meet and network with professionals and peers you would never have if you did not attend! This could open up so many doors for you as a professional and a student. Face-to-face conversations are great for collaborating ideas or talking about possible jobs or internships. Do not be afraid to introduce yourself to someone, you are both at the same conference so you already have something in common.
Personally, at the MN GIS/LIS Consortium, I was so shy. This was my first conference, I was new to the atmosphere, and I did not know what I was doing. The main push for me to become comfortable introducing myself to others stemmed from having my supervisors, professors, and upper classmates introduce me to their colleagues or acquaintances. Having someone else first introduce you is a great way to meet someone because you then have a mutual acquaintance in common and it might be less uncomfortable than for you to go up to them yourself. So take advantage of this opportunity. It can also help you break out of your comfort zone! This was my favorite part of the conference, especially because I was involved in a mentor program which paired me with a professional who I was able to sit down with, chat, and ask questions.
Myself and two other UMD students who are also GIS majors or minors at the conference.
Conferences open up opportunities, like I mentioned above briefly. These could be educational or career opportunities. First of all, you get the chance to learn in a new environment that is not the traditional classroom and everyone could use a break from the classroom every once in awhile. You will also take away new ideas and approaches that will help you succeed and be more efficient. You will even probably discover new tools or technology to help you in your studies.
Personally, I learned about so many new GIS tools, research studies, design approaches, and GIS databases at the conference I attended. These opened up many new ways for me to do my studies and research in class. The experience of learning these new ideas and tools will also help me in the future career. This conference also had a student research scholarship competition and a poster competition. I personally did not compete in either of these, but I know some students who did and it is a great way to show off your research and hard work! So attend these workshops or presentations and pick one that you have maybe never heard of before. When else will you get the chance? The opportunities at conferences are endless and hopefully, it will inspire you as well.
The “Mobile Imagery – Capture the World Around You with Mobile Imaging” lightning round presentation I attended.
Of Possible Interest: