In mid-June was the 2014 Canadian KM Forum conference in Saskatoon. Not only was this my first time ever attending a conference (and therefore presenting at one!), but also flying on an airplane. Turns out I really, really like flying.
Going into this conference, I was a little intimidated. A 23 yearold with 0 conference experience and presenting on a topic that I had only ~4 months of experience with. On the one hand, I figured that I’m a student, and therefore have nothing to prove. But on the other hand, people go to this conference wanting to get either contacts, information or both. I did not want to be perceived as a “student” or rather the connotation of lesser work that is often associated (in my experience) with student work.
Our presentation (The KMb Game) was well received at the conference. I think the attendees were impressed by the novel knowledge mobilization technique. Players were more engaged and interested with the game design, mechanics, offering their constructive feedback and amazement, than playing the actual game! But it was not necessarily the success that I will take away from the conference (although that is nice), it is the fact that something I was able to create for a class project or the Ivory tower so to speak, was given value outside of school. It wasn’t the usual do this project, to receive this grade, and move on. It went beyond this traditional cycle and may be used to help people just starting out in knowledge mobilization. Something I feel is needed for all levels of education (to push beyond a class project), and where professors can give their students this opportunity by sending them to conferences.
Another huge take away from this conference was that I learned a lot about myself. Probably the biggest was that I have a decent ability to network. Being more introverted, I never had the opportunity to network in larger events. But I contributed in discussions, asked speakers questions in front of 100 other people (something I rarely do even in classes of only 11 people). I exchanged a lot emails, and contact information. So for all of those introverts out there, conferences may improve your confidence, and build your network for future job opportunities.
Overall, I think conferences are a great way to combine classroom skills with practical skills. Something that university lacks in my opinion. It also provides opportunities for students to hone/try new skills (e.g., public speaking), while learning about themselves. My final advice for those who are scared of public speaking or unsure about conferences: just run with it and see what happens. Prepare the best you can (but don’t obsess to the point of lack of sleep), and just have fun experiencing something different.