We need to keep on learning all the time because the world is changing so quickly. Financial challenges are never-ending, competition crops up all the time, technology keeps on evolving and market requirements change. This is why both angel investors and entrepreneurs need to learn, unlearn, and relearn stuff all the time and this keeps them on their toes.
Typically, we all have different learning styles. Some of us learn by talking to experts, others by attending conferences and listening to gurus, while some prefer imbibing ideas by reading books or online content.
Conferences are very popular as a platform for sharing knowledge. Experts with real-life experience are invited to give speeches and share their perspectives, so that young founders can listen to their nuggets of wisdom. It also gives them a chance to ask them questions on a one-on-one basis as well, so that they can get answers tailored to their specific circumstances.
It’s true that attending conferences can be lots of fun. You get to network, to party, and to meet lots of other entrepreneurs, with whom you can share notes. You get a chance to vent because you can complain about how clueless and short-sighted most investors are. Hanging out with like-minded entrepreneurs can be inspiring and a conference can give you a boost of emotional energy but the problem is that this high dissipates very quickly.
You collect lots of visiting cards and many investors promise to get back to you, but once you go back to your routine life, you find no one is really very interested in talking to you anymore when you try to reconnect.
The Good, Bad And Ugly Of Conferences
If you look at the long-term ROI of attending a conference, I often think it’s negative. You need to take time away from work, and this can be an expensive distraction. Also, the issue with Indian conferences is that often the speakers are running late; and they aren’t always at their best because they haven’t taken the time or trouble to prepare. Even worse, you are forced to listen to what the organiser feels is important – and a lot of this may be of no interest or relevance to you.
Whereas, with a book, you can customise your learning to what you need to learn at that particular time so that it’s just-in-time learning. Because books are edited and polished, the wisdom which an expert shares in a book is far more comprehensive, encyclopaedic and accurate as compared to what he says in a speech.
I think after attending a conference, within a month’s time, you should perhaps do a post-mortem, and then think about what you learned, how you benefited from the conference, how constructive it really was. The question you need to ask yourself is, “Could you have learned the same lessons more efficiently and effectively?” Let’s not forget your time and bandwidth are precious and you can’t afford to fritter them away.
Now, I also think technology has changed so, while it’s great to talk about networking, if there really is someone you want to reach out to, all these people now have digital profiles. If you have something of value, then they will be more than happy to connect with you digitally so that you can then set up a one-on-one meeting, which is far more productive, rather than stand in line and hand out visiting cards and beg for one.
Also, your bandwidth is precious, as is your time, and you need to learn to conserve it so that you get the biggest bang for your buck. You need to actually measure ROI of these events. While it can be fun to attend an event, a critical analysis will usually show that you could have got the same knowledge boost using other more efficient ways, tailored to what your particular needs are.
I feel the return on investment as far as learning stuff goes, it’s far better from a book or a website, as compared to a conference.
[This post by Dr. Aniruddha Malpani first appeared on LinkedIn and has been reproduced with permission.]