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Conference Fatigue

I've had the opportunity over the past several years to attend plenty of conferences. Typically I've managed to get my employer to foot the bill for them and see them as professional development (and often there is no doubt an element of growth and learning at them). But lately I've got to be honest and say I've got conference fatigue. I suppose it's a sign that you're attending the wrong types of conferences when very few of the sessions interest you and you'd rather be speaking than sitting in the choir listening. No doubt part of the appeal of a face-to-face conference is the ability to network with like individuals and I do love that. But more often than not what happens is the conference becomes the opportunity to meetup with the same individuals you met in years past, or met online prior the conference. If that's the case, a conference makes for a pretty expensive meeting place. There are definitely exceptions to the rule. When I attended Faculty Academy at University of Mary Washington a month ago it was extremely refreshing (and I say that not because UMW is soon to be my employer). I think part of what made FA different was the combination of panel discussions and sessions that included 4 different topics each taking 15 minutes. Rarely does someone need an entire hour to talk about a PD piece that they've been working on or some new technology they find fascinating. Panel discussions are always nice in general because it's less "lecture-mode" and more "open discussion" which is really what I think most conferences should be about. Perhaps I need to explore the idea of the "unconference" a bit more since that seems to be part of what is appealing to me. In general I'm just tired of wasting my (or my employers) money on expensive meetups where the greatest thing I get out of it is face-to-face discussions with the folks I already communicate with in online spaces on a daily basis. Can't we do this without handing hundreds of dollars to vendors and organizations?