Last weekend I attended a conference. As usual, I came away both exhausted and energized. Exhausted by the swirling thoughts of all I learned, plus the toll any large gathering takes on my introvert psyche. Energized by the encouragement that comes from sharing triumphs and trials with others who understand me, and the inspiration that conferences always provide.
Wouldn’t it be nice to attend conferences like that whenever we needed a boost of inspiration or morale? But local, affordable conferences don’t crop up very often, and most of us can’t afford to travel to big conferences in other states very often. (Unless the company is paying for it. Lucky you.)
Why conferences are good for us
We all need opportunities to get together with like-minded people to learn new skills or information about a favorite topic or hobby, while also connecting with others who understand our enthusiasms, frustrations, dreams, and fears. Whether it’s called a conference, seminar or retreat, such gatherings fuel our passions, hone our skills, and challenge us to grow. They feed both our mind and our soul.
A mantra that underlies every writer’s conference I’ve attended is:
You can do it! Keep working, keep learning craft, and eventually you will break into print. The world needs to hear your unique voice.
We all need to hear encouragement like this from time to time.
But what do we do in between those mountaintop events to maintain the motivation to push onwards, especially when we get discouraged or when a particular project runs into a snag?
Why not hold a mini-conference of your own?
Don’t quit reading yet, the idea isn’t as crazy as it sounds. It doesn’t take hundreds of people, expert instructors, or big-name keynote speakers to accomplish the basic goals of a conference:
If you can gather a few fellow enthusiasts and find a place to gather, you can create your own seminar or conference.
The benefits of a mini-conference
- They’re local and cheap. No instructors to pay, no venues to rent. The ideal place to hold it is someone’s house, but your church or library might work too. I recommend a group size of six to twelve.
- You can design it to cover exactly what you want. Take a poll of the group to figure out what they need most. Maybe it’s unstructured time to work on their art without interruptions from family members. Maybe it’s a chance to share favorite resources or brainstorm problems. Whatever the final agenda looks like, be sure to leave plenty of time to just talk. Never underestimate the importance of feeling connected to others who understand a particular passion.
- They are a non-threatening way to develop teaching skills. Anyone who is not a total newbie has learned something they can teach to others. A mini-conference works on the principal that peers can share their knowledge with each other. Not only does this keep the costs down, it also challenges group members to try their hand at teaching a short session, sharing a testimony, or leading a group exercise. If you’ve ever dreamed of teaching at a conference someday, this is a safe way to test the waters.
Have I convinced you yet?
The next time you find yourself wishing you could attend a seminar on beekeeping, a retreat focused on prayer, or a conference for sci-fi writers, stop and consider making one of your own.
You might just discover it’s exactly what your friends needed, too.