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Five Reasons Going To A Conference Abroad Is A Must For SMEs To go to that conference or not to go; that's always the question any startup or SME owner asks themselves every time they get to know about a great conference, course or exhibition in their domain coming their way. I know that because I always struggle with that question myself.

By Iman Ben Chaibah

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To go to that conference or not to go; that's always the question any startup or SME owner asks themselves every time they get to know about a great conference, course or exhibition in their domain coming their way. I know that because I always struggle with that question myself. And I'm not talking about the one-day free events in your home city, because it's much easier to decide on allocating your time when no travel is involved. A conference in your hometown can be evaluated by asking yourself if the content is relevant to you and your business. Is the networking quotient of this event going to prove valuable? If you answer no to either of these questions, then skip the event and instead use that time to finish the load of work that seems to be ever-increasing.

As an SME, it's always hard to carve out the time to attend anything, because we always have a full plate of must-do items, overdue items, wishful items, and the array of new-thinking items that you'd like to devote your limited time and resources to. not to mention, with sometimes limited cash-flow, you will think twice before deciding to spend your hard-earned funds on a course.

You might spend that money instead on the company's development, forgetting that your development is part of your enterprise's development. Although I try to always go to two conferences abroad yearly, I always struggle to confirm my attendance until the month before. this is partly due to projects in progress or possibly the financial commitment, but I'm always reminded why it was important after I've gone. Here are some of the reasons why your professional development matters:

Although I keep up with the international journals in my industry, still, every time I attend a new conference/course abroad, I find a whole new set of trends and practices that I wasn't aware of. It's not because different markets develop what works with them, and you can learn a whole lot from that, and apply it to running your business in a more effective manner. Also, being updated through reading sometimes doesn't give you the full picture as hearing the stories and experiences directly from the sources themselves.

I find that a lot of my current challenges and difficulties in running the business (whether I was conscious of them or not) are often shared by the industry. There are always so many, "oh my God, you too! I thought I was the only one!" conversations, and let me tell you, sometimes, with all the struggles of running a new business, it feels very lonely. so finding that you aren't alone in those struggles (and that sometimes there is a way out of them) is definitely worth making it to an event!

Needless to say, as with any event, you will grow your network of contacts of people in the industry. Only with this will you be able to expand internationally. Consider the value of knowing and being exposed to the other attendees, and the speakers and trainers. This fresh international network allows you the opportunity and chance to learn more, and potentially develop collaborations with enterprises outside of your home ground.

Being away from the office makes me see what tasks I may have been committed to on a daily basis that are repetitive and unnecessary routines. Being away at a conference/course means that I have very little time to rest at the end of the day, and I don't have much time to access my laptop. This forces me to find a way either
to delegate tasks (maybe grooming a person for a bigger role), or to find a way to automate the repetitive things that don't require a human touch. This has worked wonders in clearing my schedule for more important and pressing work.

Even though going to a course abroad can be intense and perhaps even tiring, it's time away from your daily grind, a whole new (inspiring) environment, and a break from routine. this makes you come back with fresh perspective and full of energy to resume work on a high note. Now that I'm back from my recent course, I'm full of new ideas, redrafting additional plans for the remainder of this year and growing the company's 2016 and 2017 year plans even further. It was definitely worth it, as was every professional development event abroad I've made the time to attend.

Iman Ben Chaibah

Founder and CEO, Sail Publishing

Iman Ben Chaibah, founder of Sail Publishing, a digital publishing house for online magazines and ebooks, and Editor-in-Chief of the Emirati Sail Magazine, an online magazine about community and culture written in English by Emirati columnists. Iman is a multi-award winner in digital publishing, entrepreneurship, and literature. She started her career in IT with the private sector, climbed the corporate ladder from a programmer, to a project manager, all the way to a senior manager in IT before she decided to leave her safe job and take the risk of running her own company in the field of publishing, a field she’s always been passionate about.

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