Courtesy, Monika M. Wahi, Wikimedia Commons 

Try to take away one or two tips from each conference session you attend.

Here in the Northeast, we just finished the "I need some CEU credits" time of the year. This is the time when many professionals realize that they need to complete a few more continuing education units to maintain their professional registrations.

Like most of us, I attend various state and national conferences and watch a host of webinars that offer credits.  However, I cannot recall any that I attended based solely on the credits that were being offered.

My licensure in multiple states, along with an active role in some national groups, has exposed me to a wide range of attendees and presenters. I have always been a firm supporter of CEU and degree prerequisites. I truly believe that these types of requirements have and will continue to enhance the position of the professional land surveyor. I have presented at conferences both before and after many of the CEU requirements were mandated. I have had some great experiences and some that have not gone so well. Most of the time, my presentations are focused on telling a story or sharing an experience. 

Whether in the class or at an event, I have found that the attendees are broken into a few groups. The "Oh no, I need a credit” kind and the “Let’s go to have some fun" folks. Neither are there because of their desire to learn or interact with their peers. Don't get me wrong! Anyone who knows me is aware of how much I love to have a good time. There is another group that attends so they can be "seen" and let everyone know how great their work is. Despite recognizing individuals in these other groups, I typically find that most attendees are there to learn about technology or software and share business ideas or other experiences with their peers.

Presenters can also be grouped. There are those who travel the event circuit as “professional presenters.” Then there are the “local groups,” consisting of local leaders and society managers who  are generally engaged in giving back to the profession. There are also the “sellers.” a group that seeks to peddle their services or goods despite being asked to speak in more generic terms. This can be a tough job. It is sometimes difficult to explain a service, hardware or software innovation without offering specific names or manufacturers as examples.

I do not see the states removing the CEU requirements at any time soon. So how can we get more out of the conferences and events that we attend?

First, existing presentations should be refreshed and not recycled with a new title. Licensing boards can do their part by opening up the content a little more to include a wider range of topics.

As an attendee, be engaged. I know it is sometimes hard to take in a lot of ideas in ashort timeframe, especially in a jam-packed conference room. Try setting a goal of leaving the session with one or two tips. Ask questions and challenge the presenter. Use the time outside of the classroom to network and meet people outside of your circle.

After you become engaged in these conferences, the next step is presenting. I bet everyone reading this has a story or two to share with our peers. Start with an idea and co-present it with a more seasoned speaker. Practice your session at your firm, to non-survey groups or to another office to get your feet wet. Don’t be afraid to open up and share your experiences, since personal anecdotes can make the best presentations.

Expanding our knowledge as professionals has been and always will be vital to our success.Conferences and CEUs should not be looked at as a chore or an excuse to have a good time.

Conferences and CEUs should not be looked at as a chore.