I love learning – I really think it is the greatest gift we can give to ourselves.

However with more and more formal and informal learning opportunities – in the form of books, articles online, networking events, conferences, online courses and more – choosing how to spend your professional development dollars, not to mention your time, can sometimes be a little overwhelming.

As a solopreneur my time is almost more valuable to me than money, so I want to make sure that the professional development opportunities I take up are going to be relevant and help me achieve my goals.

How do you do that I hear you ask??

How to choose professional development opportunities

These are some of the factors I consider when deciding whether to attend a professional development opportunity, whether it be a course, a conference, or a networking event:

  • How much is it? There are a lot of free and low cost events around, but will they be worth your time? Will the content be valuable or will the speaker just be there to sell a product from the platform?
  • How much time will it take to attend? Is it a one-off event or a regular time over a number of weeks? Is it for a couple of hours or a whole day? Or is it multiple consecutive days?
  • When is it? What time of day is it? How does that fit into your daily routine? And your non-work commitments? I love breakfast networking, I hate lunch events as they eat into my day too much. How far into the future is it? If it’s three days next week I probably can’t commit with such short notice, but if it’s three days in six months time then I can work it into my schedule if it looks worthwhile.
  • Who are the speakers? Do I know them (or know of them)? Are they industry leaders? Do I respect them/their teachings/their knowledge? Are they actually going to be engaging or do they deliver via yawn-fest? If it’s a speaker you’ve seen before, will they deliver new content or re-hash what you have already seen?
  • Will the content be relevant and of a high quality? How much selling from the platform is there likely to be? Is the expert speaking really one? I once listened to a presentation on twitter by a speaker who later admitted he had never used it. What a waste of effort that was.
  • Who else might be there?
    • Will I be able to meet prospective clients?
    • Will I know other people there? Will I be able to catch up with a number of friends/colleagues/business associates all at once (it’s a lot easier than arranging a lot of coffees!)?
  • Is the event face-to-face or online?
    • If it’s face-to-face, where is it? Is it in my home-town or do I have to travel? If I have to travel, how long with that take? If it’s overseas can I also afford the time and dollars to tack on a few days/weeks/months holiday? (If it’s overseas then for me the answer to this always needs to be yes and a minimum of an extra ten days including travel time – in case you were wondering…)
    • If it’s online, what time will it be? Do I have to attend in real-time or will it be recorded for me to listen to later? Getting up at 2am to listen to a webinar doesn’t really float my boat… And if it’s ongoing, how motivated will I be to do it online? I deliberately chose to study my Master of Public Health in face-to-face mode as I needed that weekly attendance at class to stay motivated to do the work, plus I wanted to get to know my lecturers and fellow students in a physical environment. Yes, it was hard, but it was definitely worth that extra effort to go to class.
  • If it’s a regular event, have I been before and what value did it add? If I haven’t been, who can I talk to so I can find out more? I’ve just booked to go to Social Media Marketing World in San Diego in April after listening to Loren Bartley rave excitedly for nearly 90 minutes about her experience there this year – you can hear her on her fabulous podcast #BusinessAddicts.
  • How does the event promote itself via social media? If there is a huge twitter presence, do I really need to be there in person? Or will I get good value following along at home? Some conferences and networking events do twitter brilliantly. Far too many don’t.
  • Is the professional development accredited or will I get a certificate of some sort? Will it give me CPD points? How will that be valued by my colleagues, potential employers, potential clients? If you are thinking about going back to uni to do post-graduate study, do you need to do a Masters or a PhD or will a Graduate Certificate suffice?

Once you’ve chosen the professional development opportunity you want to go to, don’t forget to make the most of it by preparing appropriately. Read my post on Ten tips for getting the most out of a conference to see what I mean by this.

Do you prioritise professional development? How do you choose what to do? What’s the best professional development you’ve done and why?


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