Playing the Conference Game from the Other Side

My conference and expo-going experience tends to be a little different from the average attendee because I'm more often than not on the giving end instead of receiving. By that I mean I'm usually presenting at the event or donning my journalist hat to report on what's going on. This week I get to indulge myself as an attendee: I'm off to Miami Beach for the MOGO media InDesign, Pixel, Vector and Acrobat Conference.

Oddly enough, I packed as if I was presenting at the event. All of my usual presentation gear including video adapters, backups of important files, and printouts with critical data about the venues I'll be at is safely tucked away in my carry on bag. Really. Some habits are hard to break.

For all of my traveling, however, this is my first trip to Florida. Thanks to my window seat view, I'm getting to see parts of the U.S. from the air that I've only seen from the ground. Yeah, I'm on the plane, and I'm writing. Go figure.

I've gone from snow in the air in Denver to what amounts to me as tropical weather, and there's still a good 45 minutes left in the flight. If my geography is correct, I'm over the ocean and west of Florida right now. At this altitude, you get a very different perspective on the world -- much like I'll get a very different perspective on training conferences all this week.

I also get to watch the other travelers on the plane, and here's what I've noticed: Most people are closed away in their own little worlds, unaware of the amazing things going on around them. The more you pay see, the more you can learn. For example, after I can get at an Internet connection again I need to check up on some geography.

I'm sure -- okay, pretty sure -- that I saw the Mississippi river at one point, and although I get just how big it is (I'm originally from Missouri, after all), I didn't get just how big it is. I also need to figure out just where all of those fires I saw was really were. Florida pan handle? Probably, but I can't be sure until I do some research.

My point is that here I sit, looking out my little window seeing, and ultimately learning, about things that most of the other people on this flight are oblivious to.

Here's a little observation for you: From this altitude, the ocean waves look like that filmy coating you see on old soup right before the lunch lady stirs it back into the pot. But in a good way.

Believe it or not, I really have a point. It's way too easy to make up excuses for why you don't take time to go learn something new, hone your skills, and expand your horizons. It's even harder of you work someplace where you hear things like "We don't have time to send you to training. There's work to be done and deadlines to meet!"

I remember those days, and I also remember how frustrating it was knowing there were new and exciting things to learn, but someone was holding me back. Luckily, life hasn't been like that for me for some time now.

With that in mind, I'm off to Miami Beach. Sure, I've been in the graphic design world for a long time. I remember the good old days of QuarkXPress 3.1, floppy disks, and the promised marvels of PostScript Level 2. That doesn't mean there aren't things I can still learn, and I plan on filling my head with cool new bits of knowledge all week long.