If you have never attended an IIA Conference (and, come to think of it, why haven't you? If you have never attended an IIA Conference, then you are missing an incredible opportunity and you should figure out some way to beg, borrow, steal, stalk, wheedle, whine, sneak, mitigate, bombast, bluff, befuddle, maybe even pay your way in. Okay, one sentence in and I've already lost my train of thought. Where was I? Oh yeah...) If you have never attended an IIA Conference, you would probably find surprising a strange feeling that overcomes attendees. (Well, at least it overcomes this attendee.) It is an unexpected feeling that occurs as you wake up that first morning, as you register, as you approach the first breakfast, as you walk up to the vendor exhibits, as you sit down for that first general session.
That feeling is anticipation.
And, as you attend more conferences, that feeling of anticipation only grows stronger. Because the experience of a good conference is a little like that first Lay's potato chip – you only want more.
I've been going to conferences for nigh on 20 year (that's the way we old-timers talk), and I still pour through the agenda like a nerd trying to determine where to go at Comic Con. I still tend to wake up early the morning of the conference (even after a taste of the losing streak I know I will continue on this trip to Las Vegas). And I still walk into the conference like a kid about to meet his favorite superhero.
I can't even begin to tell you the things I have learned from conferences. Suffice to say that, in some instances, there have been incremental changes that helped make me and my department better. However, there have also been times where I picked up a nugget, a theory, a concept, a tool, a technique, that caused seismic (and positive) change to the work in which I was involved.
That is the anticipation factor. You never know what will come from a conference. But, big or small, if you are paying attention, there will always be something that will change you.
And so I sit this morning (having woken up early) waiting until I can go down and dive into the Continental breakfast and start seeing friends I haven't seen in a while and visit the vendor booths.
But most importantly, waiting until I can get into that first session and see what there is to learn.
There is a great quote from Men in Black: Imagine what you'll know tomorrow.
I can hardly wait.