Although “colleagues” were listed as one of the eight essentials to bring to NASPA 2017, attending the conference solo certainly has its merits. Even if you will be attending with your co-workers, you may consider branching out on your own for a session or two after reading about the potential benefits of going it alone.
1) You can make the most of your down-time. One recurrent piece of advice floating around the web for lone conference attendees is to establish a home base- somewhere to recharge and reflect between sessions. Whether your hotel room, a nearby coffee shop, or the hotel lobby becomes your sanctuary, you will have the freedom to retreat to it whenever you need to take a breather. Pushing your personal limits at networking events and taking advantage of all the learning opportunities available to you is bound to take its toll. When you’re up for some adventure, you will be free to either check out the city on your own terms or hit the town with some new connections.
2) You’ll be more likely to step outside your comfort zone. Prior to the event, you might find that using the conference’s hashtag to out yourself as a lone conference-goer on social media will draw responses from others who are in the same boat and/or eager to establish some connections ahead of time. During the conference, using your solo status as an icebreaker might help you to establish common ground with your neighbours, or at least prompt them to introduce you to some of their colleagues and contacts. Attendees may also be more inclined to introduce themselves to you, as it is often less nerve-racking to approach a single person than a group of clearly acquainted individuals at a networking event. Above all, knowing and accepting your limits is important. If you’ve given it your best effort and feel satisfied with the connections you’ve made, feel free to duck out of a networking reception early. Consider using your free time to devise a plan for follow-up communication while the initial introductions are still fresh in your mind.
3) You will hold yourself accountable. If you are the only person from your organization, department, or team attending a conference, you might feel an increased sense of responsibility to make the most of the experience. Going it alone means that any gaps in preliminary research, presentation takeaways, and social connections can’t be filled by other colleagues in attendance. The reward for your ambition? Returning from a conference armed with fresh ideas, an expanded professional network, and some valuable knowledge to pass onto your colleagues might help take your career to the next level. Whether there is a project or initiative you’re hoping to spearhead, or a professional partnership your organization is eager to initiate, your decision to brave a conference alone just might be a pivotal first step.