Invest in Yourself and Your Professional Development

The week before last I was at the Southeast Creative Summit. The enthusiasm of the attendees, who came from all over North America, reminded me of the importance of taking the time to invest in yourself and your professional development.

Even if you are extremely busy, selecting the right conference or training session can help you sharpen your skills, move your business forward, and forge new contacts that can pay off in a multitude of ways.

Here are some of major things that I think are worth paying attention to when selecting or attending an event.

Focus on Developing Your Weaknesses

It's tempting to pick conference sessions that cater to your strengths or that you are truly passionate about, but I've always found that it's a good idea to spend some time developing areas where I'm a little weak. The economist in me says to focus on the areas where there is the greatest marginal return.

At the Southeast Creative Summit, it was good to see that most of the people I spoke with were doing this. For example, I heard some great things from a couple of editors that had attended workshops on "Sound for Editors" and "Audio Post" by Michael Cardillo. Similarly, I heard a number of people who enjoyed the various sessions on colour grading that were put on by Patrick Inhofer and Robbie Carman. You can't be an expert in everything, but if you can pick up a couple of tips that round out your skill set and save some time in areas where you typically struggle, then the event can pay for itself. One of my new friends from the conference echoed this sentiment in her debrief.

Look for Sessions That Can Move Your Business Forward

Running a production or post business isn't just about telling great stories. If you are in the drivers seat, it means finding and managing clients, budgeting and scheduling, figuring out what jobs to pitch for, and managing the overall workflow for projects so that tasks are done efficiently and so that budgets and deadlines are met.

As the core editing tools get better and more powerful, some of these other areas become real time sinks and can be the roadblocks that hold people back from growing their business. The Southeast Creative Summit had an entire stream that was devoted to the business of post production, and many of the individual sessions highlighted ways to improve the editing workflow. Overall, this was a nice balance.

Meet New People

I'm fairly active on Twitter, and have made some great connections over the last couple of years, but I have to say it's always nice to step out of the virtual world and meet some new people face to face. Conferences can help you find staff, build business alliances with people who offer complementary services, get answers to questions, or even just build new friendships.

I've also found that these types of events can be a good place for introverts to practice getting out and speaking to new people. They tend to offer a safe environment where everyone shares the same passion. Building confidence at events like the Atlanta Creative Ball and the Media Motion Ball at NAB can help the next time you are forced to network in a less familiar setting.

Go Beyond the Gear

Events like NAB can be a great time and there is lots of temptation to dig deep into new gear. Unless there is something you absolutely need to buy, it may make more sense to look at the big picture of where some of this gear fits in. For example, with 4K there are lots of questions about when to make the shift, how to do it, and how to store and archive all the data.

Likewise, instead of spending too much time on vendor specific sessions (unless this is your real weakness or there is a very specific return on your time like certifications), it may make more sense to spend time on the craft and developing the transferable skills that you can use regardless of what NLE you use.

Take Time to Think

I've always found that conferences put me in a head-space where I'm not thinking about impending deadlines or what I need to do tomorrow. It's a liberating place where you can take a couple of days to think about the big picture.

Listening to a session will often send me off thinking on a tangent, and I've learned to embrace this. I've found the clear head-space where my focus is on improving myself leads to unexpected breakthroughs that aren't necessarily related to the session I'm in. I think there's something to Louis Pasteur's quote that "Chance favors only the prepared mind".

What Events do You Attend and Why?

I thought the Southeast Creative Summit's mix of sessions by working editors for working editors was the model of a great event. I'm sure there are other ones that are worth going to.

Please help out the community and let people know what events you are attending and why?